“Instead of asking ‘What’s the matter?’, occupational therapists ask the question ‘What matters to you?’” says Colleen Diggins.
Diggins splits her time at IWK Health between her roles of professional practice leader, Occupational Therapy and occupational therapist, School Therapy Services with Rehabilitation Services. But regardless of the hat she is wearing that day, her focus is always on patients and serving their unique needs.
“Everyone’s life is made up of occupations or meaningful-everyday-activities,” says Diggins. “Occupational therapists coach children and their families to identify what is meaningful to them, and work with them so they can participate in their daily lives and achieve their goals.”
At the IWK there are almost 50 occupational therapists (OTs) working across programs. IWK OTs work with inpatients and outpatients as well as with patients in the community — including in people’s homes, daycares and schools. Some OTs have been at the IWK for 30 years and others are brand new; numerous OT positions were created in mental health in the last few years and hopefully there will be more on the horizon.
To deliver care, OTs look at the person, the environment and the occupation, and use activities to foster participation and function in areas of productivity. For Diggins in her clinical role, that means working with children in their realistic environments to help them reach their own goals. That might mean helping children learn to take their shoes off or sit at a desk and listen to their teacher, or even singing goofy songs to them when using play to learn.
“Play is an important occupation in itself, but because fun play is motivating, it can also be used to help children work on other developmental goals,” says Diggins. “I sing Baby Shark and dance a lot!”
It’s that variety of activity that keeps Diggins engaged and wanting to do the best she can for her patients.
“OT is a diverse profession and t’s always interesting and challenging. We’re always problem solving and learning something new,” says Diggins. ”I’ve worked in adult inpatients and outpatients, in large production plants, in the correctional system and teaching OT students, but I love pediatrics and being a part of helping kids do what they want to do.”
October is Occupational Therapy Month.