Stephanie Dustman, SHP OT graduate, and Adrian, MO native, studied occupational therapy and now serves students of three elementary schools in the Pleasant Hill area. However, OT was not always Dustman’s plan, “I really did not know what OT was nor did I know anyone who had experienced occupational therapy or anyone who practiced OT. So, I chose PT as a major.”

During her freshman year studying PT, Dustman found OT while observing an OT and PT treating a patient with a head injury at a rehabilitation center. She saw an OT at work and decided the profession would better suit her, as it was more involved and engaging. Today she is a staff therapist in the Raymore Peculiar School District and provides both direct and indirect services to students aged kindergarten through fifth grade. She often collaborates with teachers to solve problems that students display and identify areas of concern. Within her current school district, Dustman has even been tasked with developing a new handwriting curriculum. “With this opportunity, we have been able to incorporate knowledge and important strategies that we used during therapy into the curriculum design to make it more accessible and universal for all students in the general education setting.”

One of Dustman’s most memorable moments happened while she was working with a specialized group of students, most of whom had been diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, autism or an intellectual disability. She had the students start doing yoga each week and experienced difficulties at first, but then was able to see great progress. “By the end of the year, the kids were really enjoying participating (most of them), holding poses and showing some leadership skills when it was time for them to choose and demonstrate the poses.”

For those considering entering OT as a profession, Dustman recommends exploring the many outlets where you can provide your services. “We have opportunities in technology, schools, hospitals, rehab centers, community programs, outpatient centers, extended care facilities, mental health programs, and programs that are not even established yet.”