“Let me see how lefty can hold the string,” Jordyn Farver, OTR/L, tells 5-year-old Trace.
Farver, an occupational therapist at Akron Children’s Hospital, has spent the past four weeks working with Trace after surgery for a brain tumor weakened his left side.
Trace carefully puts glow-in-the-dark beads on a string to make a necklace. “You can hold the string with your right hand but let lefty put the beads on,” Farver says.
Once Trace finishes the necklace, Farver takes him to another room to throw “snowballs,” or wadded up paper, at pictures of Disney villains.
“Use lefty to throw the snowball,” she encourages him.
Trace concentrates as he throws the paper and hits Captain Hook. “I’m going to get you villains,” he shouts. “I’m ready for my next mission, Miss Jordyn!”
Farver starts her day in a huddle with the inpatient rehab team. They discuss the patients and the day’s schedule.
“Our days are planned out, but when you’re working with children you have to be flexible,” she said.
Next Farver meets with the family of one of her patients. “We frequently meet with the parents to discuss care plans and what they should expect from the therapy,” she said.
After the parent meeting, Farver heads to her first appointment of the day with Trace.
“Sometimes people are surprised when they find out that children receive occupational therapy. But a child’s occupation is being a child, and we work on skills they need to be successful,” she said.
These activities can include brushing teeth and getting dressed − or skills a child may need to succeed in school, such as writing or cutting with scissors.
After finishing her session with Trace, Farver heads up to the seventh floor inpatient therapy unit to see another patient. “Some of our inpatients are well enough to come down to the floor for therapy,” she said. “But if a child is not able to come to the floor, I will visit them in their room for therapy.”
Akron Children’s opened the inpatient therapy unit in October 2012 for hospitalized children who need intensive physical, occupational or speech therapy.
While Farver is the primary OT for this unit, she and the other OTs visit children in all areas of the hospital if they need therapy.
“We see children in the burn center, the ICU or oncology, but for a child to be moved to the seventh floor therapy unit, we have to determine that they are medically stable enough for at least three hours of daily therapy,” she said.
Farver heads back down to the second floor Rehabilitation Services department and has just enough time before her next appointment to enter information into the charts of her first two patients.
“All our patients have goals, and we chart how successful they have been in meeting those goals,” she said. “For example, when we first started working with Trace, he was not able to make a fist with his left hand. He has worked hard and come so far in four weeks. It is so gratifying to see his progress.”
The next patient on the schedule is 8-year-old Dayshunah, who’s working to overcome a brain trauma she suffered five months ago after an asthma attack deprived her brain of oxygen.
Farver holds up brightly colored paper in front of Dayshunah and asks her to follow the color with her eyes. “Let your eyes do your talking,” she encourages her. “Can you look at the purple paper?”
Dayshunah spent several months in the pediatric ICU and on the seventh floor therapy unit. This is just her second day being well enough to come to the therapy floor for her sessions.
“Her mother told us she was really sassy before the asthma attack, and we can’t wait to see some of that sassiness come out of her again,” said Farver.
John, a 15-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, is Farver’s next appointment. She takes him to an area in the rehab department that’s set up like a small apartment with a kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom.
Farver uses the area to help her patients learn to tackle daily activities like today’s activity − making peanut butter cookies.
“Let’s wash our hands first,” she said. “Now don’t turn the water on too high or it will splash you.”
John goes about making the cookies while Farver gently reminds him to stand up straight. Once the cookies are in the oven, Farver has him head back to the sink, where he washes the dishes and puts them in the drying rack.
“These tasks may seem simple, but they will help John become more independent at home,” she said.
Farver received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio State University.
“I learned a lot of important information during my education,” she said. “But I think the six months I spent doing clinical field work was invaluable. While you always need to be prepared and have a plan, with children you need to over plan. You never know what’s going to work, and you have to be ready to rethink your plan at any time.”
The rest of Farver’s day is spent moving between the inpatient therapy unit and other areas of the hospital.
“This job is always changing and each day is a new challenge,” she said. “I see some patients twice a day for a month, while other patients I might only see one time. But no matter how much time I spend with a child, it is very rewarding to know that what we are doing is helping these children get back to the business of being a child.”