Since she works with children, Cindy DeRuiter's says her days are always memorable. Her patients are sure to say or do something funny, unexpected, or heartwarming. An occupational therapist at Easter Seals Autism Therapeutic School's Chicago site, DeRuiter, 26, works with children with autism and their families, delivering services in a special-education-school setting.
Her goal is to help kids participate more fully in activities related to school, including development of sensory and emotional regulation skills, handwriting ability, vocational skills, self-care and hygiene, task modification and adaptation. She may address environmental modification of classrooms, and consults with parents, teachers and other professionals to help her patients succeed in school.
She especially enjoys witnessing moments of accomplishment.
"One experience that sticks in my mind was helping a child learn to pedal his tricycle and to jump for the first time," DeRuiter recalled. "It absolutely made him light up with joy."
It can be hard to define occupational therapy (OT) because the field is so broad, DeRuiter said. She sees OTs as health care professionals who help rehabilitate people who've experienced injury, illness, or disability. Therapy focuses on mastering everyday activities (or "occupations") that help patients be more independent, productive and happy.