Occupational therapy assistants play an important role in helping people with challenges and disabilities participate in everyday life activities.
They are not confined to an office or desk for their work and sometimes they aren’t even confined to the indoors. With the increase in creative alternatives to treatment, one area seeing a rise is hippotherapy, according to a release.
According to the American Hippotherapy Association, hippotherapy is a physical, occupational and speech therapy that utilizes the natural gait and movement of a horse to provide motor and sensory input. It is based on improvement of neurologic functions — and sensory processes — and used for patients with physical and mental disorders.
Karen Heslop is a certified occupational therapy assistant. She is also a graduate of Pima Medical Institute’s Mesa Campus. Ms. Heslop went back to school after her children were grown, and says while she did face some challenges as an older student, it was well worth the struggle.
“I raised my kids, I went back [to school] at 44 and so I was one of the older students there, which was kind of a unique experience. All these kids knew how to use computers really well, submit their papers, and PowerPoints and that is something I had to learn,” Ms. Heslop said in the release. “What I loved about the program at Pima Medical, is that it starts from the ground level by just introducing what occupational therapy is, to body systems, how things work and how our body moves. Everything was just really great,” she said.
Ms. Heslop’s love of helping children led her to Able Acres in Queen Creek. Able Acres is dedicated to helping special needs children through therapy. One of the therapies offered is hippotherapy, something Ms. Heslop loves. She believes she gets more out of the children with the help of the horse.
“From my experience, they are much more focused on the horse rather than just sitting in a clinic at a table. I can get more work out of the kids, and they’re more successful on the horse,” Ms. Heslop said.
In addition to Ms. Heslop, Able Acres is an externship location for many Pima Medical students preparing to graduate.
Carlos Lopez is one of those externs. He has been working as a certified nursing assistant for the past decade and says his love of helping people drew him to the occupational therapy assistants program.
“The instructors are amazing. They really break it down for you. They’re amazing, and the help they offer, they offer a lot of resources as well,” Mr. Lopez said in the release.
While Mr. Lopez says he will likely move on to work with geriatric patients, he says his externship with hippotherapy has been a rewarding and great learning opportunity.
For anyone who is interested in a career that offers creative and fun ways to help people, a career in occupational therapy might be the right fit.
Learn more about Pima Medical Institute at pmi.edu.