Meet Georgia Vine, a third year occupational therapy student using her disability as an important tool on her journey to becoming an OT
I’m Georgia, a final year BSc occupational therapy student at Sheffield Hallam University. In this article I’m going to discuss how my occupational therapy journey is a little different than most.
I’ve had OT input from being born up until the age of 16 due to having spastic cerebral palsy which affects all four limbs and my speech (this being the short description of course).
When I was younger, I really struggled with my fine motor skills I remember doing the nine peg-hole test a lot. My parents have always supported me, and my therapy sessions never ended when the therapist left as my parents made sure that they incorporated it in everything I did.
My house was full of toys, but little did I know that my parents used to buy toys purposely to improve my fine and gross motor skills.
I thought it was just a coincidence when I played with a toy during therapy and then I’d magically get a new toy a few days later! I played many games just like any other child but obviously, there is a reason why my parents bought building blocks and challenged me to build the tallest tower or used to get me chunky pens.
We knew from around the age of seven that my handwriting was not going to improve drastically therefore I started doing all my written work on computers. Let me tell you, I’ve had some funky access methods in my time, from roller balls to joysticks.
However, when I started working on a computer, I used to feel isolated as often I’d be sat on the computer in the corner all on my own and these lessons were always the hardest. My teachers started to notice that it was affecting my learning. One day I walked in to find my computer decorated with bright colours, my stand for my keyboard had been totally revamped. This meant a lot to me I will never forget walking into my classroom that day!
When I moved to working on a laptop where I could work at a desk with all my peers this did wonders for my self-esteem. I still took up most of the table with my clunky equipment, but I didn’t care because I could sit with my friends.
I only really started using just my laptop with no funky keyboards or mouses around age 15 and this was only because as the workload grew I found that I didn’t have enough room for all my work and adaptations on my desk.
Although my computer luggage may have got lighter over the years, I still use a lot of equipment around the house daily to enable my independence. For example, I have a bath board, a shower seat, a plate guard, Dycem and other pieces of equipment that I use daily. I have become a lot more independent over the years but just because I don’t have input from services now doesn’t mean that I don’t need help in completing activities of daily living. I mean mealtimes would be a mess without my Dycem and plate guard – and that’s with my food being pre-cut!
My occupational therapy input during my childhood plays a massive role in my life and I think that’s why my goal is to become a paediatric OT. This is because I can use my disability as a strength and as a tool and this is what I have been doing in my recent work.
In 2019 I set up my own blog named Not So Terrible Palsy and more recently I have been using my blog as part of my studies as I completed a virtual occupational therapy placement. My virtual placement was all about the benefits of online communities for disabled people as I myself have gained more confidence due to the online communities I’m involved in.
My work on placement was just the start as I continue to make the power of online communities more understood in the professional world.
So, this again is an example of the significant role my disability plays in my life. As without my cerebral palsy I probably would not have even chosen to study occupational therapy and I certainly wouldn’t be raising awareness of online communities in the OT world.
I feel fortunate that I can do this, and I will continue to use my personal experiences of disability as a tool throughout my career.