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My Experience as an Occupational Therapy Student with Cerebral Palsy

06 Oct 2020 06:00 | SIE News (Administrator)

On World CP Day (6 October), we're delighted to bring you this guest blog from Georgia Vine: occupational therapy student; CP Teens UK Upcoming Disability Blogger of the Year 2020; Digital Production Director & Global Students ambassador for Occupational Therapist Without Borders; and founder of the Not So Terrible Palsy blog.

I’m Georgia, I have cerebral palsy and I am a third-year student at Sheffield Hallam University studying occupational therapy. I chose to study occupational therapy because of the significant role my occupational therapists played in my life when I was growing up.

Due to my disability, I have a lot of physical difficulties, so I knew from day one that I would find the course quite physically demanding. I had a lot of worries when I got a place at university as I knew it wasn’t going to be plain sailing. There were many questions to answer… 'Would I be able to cope with the work?’ ‘Would I be able to do a degree?’ Which I know may seem dramatic; but I had to be real with myself, and face reality even if that was the case.

However, the questions didn’t come from my head, the questions came from the doctor at my occupational health appointment, which I had to have, to ensure that I was fit to go to university.

I remember him asking me so many questions like, “What would happen if a patient asks you to do something that you can’t do?’’ and to be fair I do have to be realistic and seriously consider which job I want to go in to within occupational therapy, but I was very distressed after this appointment. This was because I’d been getting so excited about September, so it was really disheartening to hear such negative questions.

Shortly after this appointment, I had my induction day, on which understandably I was very anxious about because of the previous events. I became so anxious I broke down in tears. But I guess I broke down in the right place, at the right time, because at the end of that day the lecturer that helped me through, came up to me and said ”Georgia, don’t worry, we are going to prepare for the hard parts”. This conversation meant a lot to me and was probably the highlight of my induction day. Following the induction day my lecturers arranged a meeting with my mum and myself, to plan, and discuss my anxieties, and from this meeting a lot of my worries were dealt with.

Forward planning was put into place with some teaching sessions, as we knew that I would struggle when having manual handling training. But as mentioned, my lecturers had already prepared for this, and my reasonable adjustments in relation to moving and handling lectures had already been put into place. It was decided that I would do the manual handling on my own first, to try it, and then if I couldn’t do it or felt embarrassed I didn’t have to go to the training with everyone. This solution made me feel a lot more at ease, and I was very touched that they’d given this so much thought.

There are always hurdles along the way- my pre-placement learning agreement changes on a regular basis, as I always find something new that I need support with. Yes, it is hard, and I’ve had some really tough moments on placements and I’m still going through changes that I didn’t think I’d ever need to go through. For example, coming to terms with sometimes needing a communication aid on placement due to my speech impairment has been really hard. But I get through it because I don’t have to go through it alone. I have the support of my parents and lecturers and I never worry too much, because I know that I have an amazing team in my corner.

My role emerging occupational therapy placement that I completed virtually earlier this year was a turning point for me. It enabled me to feel so much more independent. During this placement I had the most control I had ever had as an occupational therapy student. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was probably the most independent, I have ever been.

Of course, one of the reasons was because it was my third placement and I knew a lot about my needs, but the biggest factor by far was that I had a great supervisor, who knew my needs well and it worked. This relationship and trust was so essential to me because I just felt so relaxed having someone that knew me so well. Working from home as well as having this relationship with my supervisor was great, because, if I’d had a bad night, I could get up later and it wasn’t an issue. My supervisor knew me so well, and knew that whether I started at 9am or 12pm I would get done what I needed to that day.

I know that there will be more hurdles along the way, but that’s okay because university and I will continue to work as a team to solve them.

Happy World CP Day 2020!

Thank you for reading,

Georgia

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