The occupational therapy program at CHOC helps children develop or improve important skills for daily life. In honor of National Occupational Therapy Month, we spoke to Chelsey Kaufman, an occupational therapist at CHOC Children’s. Kaufman works with acute hospitalized patients on building or re-building fine and gross motor skills and developmental milestones, as well as feeding and swallowing disorders.
Q: Why did you want to become an occupational therapist?
A: I always knew that I wanted to work with kids in the medical field, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. I first discovered occupational therapy when I was in high school. I used to babysit a child with a medical condition, and I would accompany him to occupational therapy. I found it so amazing to watch a young child regain the strength and independence needed to do all the activities that just getting to be a kid encompasses. It was so special to observe his parents watch him have experiences that are innate and natural for most children. In watching and observing sessions, I realized occupational therapy was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Now, as an occupational therapist, I get to help children rebuild foundational skills they need for functional tasks, and help them maximize their independence during these activities.
Q: What part of being an occupational therapist are you most passionate about?
A: I am most passionate about the families and children I am lucky enough to work with. Working in acute care, I meet families and children at what may be one of the most stressful and vulnerable times in their lives. To be let into that time and to help give a child the tools to grow and develop and regain independence with daily activities, or to help a baby learn to feed and swallow safely is a privilege. I feel so lucky and fortunate to get to do that every day.
Q: What advice would you offer someone considering pursuing a career in occupational therapy?
A: I think it is such a special, unique and rewarding profession no matter what area you practice in. Because there are so many different areas and settings, it is important to research all the different opportunities as well as volunteer or get an internship in specific areas of interest.
Q: What attracted you to CHOC?
A: I had always wanted to work in a pediatric hospital setting. I was specifically attracted to CHOC because of the multi-disciplinary inpatient feeding program as well as the incredible opportunities to enhance and expand my career.
Q: What else should people know about occupational therapy?
A: A lot of people are unfamiliar with occupational therapy. I think one of the most important things to know is that there is so much diversity and variety within the profession in terms of populations, settings, and specialties. The profession is also expanding rapidly due to the large amount of growing research and evidenced-based practice. There are so many opportunities for professional growth and the ability to expand knowledge.
Occupational therapy may be recommended if a child has delayed developmental skills, abnormal muscle tone, limited movement, swallowing or feeding issues, or is not able to do age-appropriate self-care activities. Learn more about CHOC’s occupational therapy program.