In the Beginning…

Hello friends, welcome to my first blog post for The Faithful OT! I’m Reilly, a third year doctor of occupational therapy (OTD) student at Creighton University. I also happen be a Christian. At this point, you might have a couple of questions, such as

What is occupational therapy?

Great question! Occupational therapy is a healthcare profession in which clinicians work with individuals with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities on completing “occupations,” or the daily tasks they want and need to do. For example, as an OT student, I have worked with children with autism on developing social skills for play with peers, with adults who have experienced a traumatic brain injury on activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing, dressing, and grooming, with individuals who have had hand injuries on strengthening and getting motion back for manipulating small objects, and with people with mental illnesses on cooking simple but nutritious meals in the kitchen. That being said, occupational therapists don’t always work with clients who identify as “disabled” or part of the disability community, but often we do.

Why are you sharing that you are a Christian?

I became Catholic after being raised in a non-denominational Christian church when I was earning my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Loyola University Chicago. Being a Christian impacts just about everything I do, even my work as an OT student! This is a bit more complicated, but you can read all about my faith journey here.

What do these have to do with each other?

As a future occupational therapist, I often find myself thinking about how accessible the spaces I occupy are for people with disabilities. This includes the churches I attend. In my experience in both non-denominational and Catholic churches, I have seen countless situations of places of worship becoming inaccessible spaces, either through the physical environment or through the social norms that discourage the active participation of people with disabilities.

Likewise, as a Christian, I bring my faith with me to my workplace. In my hands-on work with my patients, I am with people in some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives. In these moments, it’s not uncommon for issues of faith, spirituality, or religion to be brought up in conversation. While pastoral care is often offered to people in a hospital after a major injury or while facing a serious illness, I find myself wondering if the same opportunities are offered to patients with intellectual or developmental disabilities. And while the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework lists religious and spiritual expression as a instrumental activity of daily living, many occupational therapists have never addressed religious practice or spirituality with their patients.

Through this blog, I am hoping to create content for both OTs and people working in ministry to learn about the religious practices and spiritual lives of people with disabilities. Each week, I’ll be posting blog posts on religious activities as “occupations,” the role of OTs in working with people of faith or religious communities to create inclusive spaces, and basics on disability for people of faith. One of the resources I will be continually updating for the next three months is a working bibliography on disability theology. If you have resources you think may be beneficial to others and feel would fit well on the bibliography, please contact me through this site or through my email, listed in the bibliography.

Additionally, if you have questions, comments, or ideas of things you would like me to talk about, feel free to contact me through the site or via email. I look forward to learning with all of you on this journey.

God bless,

Reilly

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