A REVIEW - Occupational Therapy National Conference 2015

What an amazing experience to share with Jennifer (Early Links OT).

We presented a paper…

We visited the stalls... and

We attended over 56 hours of lectures and workshops in 4 days.

I'd like to share some of the key concepts that parents, teachers, other professional will be keen to know... and tell you about my personal realisations while staying in Melbourne for a week after the conference to let the information settle in my brain before I tried to implement it all.

Mission & Vision

There was a lot of talk throughout the conference about acknowledging the varied work that Occupational Therapist’s do across the lifespan of our clients and the varied locations/situations where OT can be helpful. And, the confusion this can cause about what our profession does… The WFOT President, Marilyn Pattison said it best...  “It’s simple, Occupational Therapists Improve Performance. No matter where, or with whom, we improve performance in everyday actions.”

At the same time as the OT Conference, Fiona - our Admin Superhero, was busy learning about creative a business identity at the S&S workshop in Sydney. Together, over the following few days, we threw our collective thoughts at a mission and vision for Early Links and our clients. And there is was, a mission to aim for, a vision to be inspired by and a set of values that will guide our team to helping our clients improve performance and “unlock the life you imagine”.


Keynote Speeches

Each morning there was a Keynote address - Dr Claire Ballinger spoke on public involvement in healthcare, Prof John Mendoza spoke on Mental Health being everyone’s health problem, and Hon Minister for Mental Health & Disability Helen Morton inspired us all with her address “Can OTs really change the world?”

Oh course, there were plenty of interesting facts and stories about how Occupational Therapy is a profession that changes lives - but - what I thought was most important to share was the call each of these speakers made to involve the wider community in healthcare. From the provision of services that fill needs, to planning for local strategies, right up to advocating for policy changes at the federal level. They all, in some way, urged us as health professionals to reach out and speak with our community about health concerns they feel are not being addressed.

Prof. John Mendoza also spoke about the need to change the education system’s approach to “The 3 R’s” - Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic - to also include “Resilience & Running”. He stated that physical fitness and the ability to cope with change, challenge, and make good choices was key to helping children grow into independent young adults who had problem solving skills and could cope with adversity.

I offer this to you today - as a member of the National O.T. Association and a member of the Primary Health Network Allied Health Advisory Network - do you have a question, a concern, a comment?

CLICK HERE and I will represent your thoughts as best as I can.


A University Perspective

The day before the conference started, I attended the OT Educators day. I was asked why would an based in a clinical setting want to listen to theory and concepts discussed by academic OTs. Simple - I love learning, and also, I help to supervise the students on their clinical placements and it makes sense to me, that I would want to know what theory and concepts will shape their understanding of our profession.

The most interesting aspect of this experience was the consistent thought that both the Undergraduate and Master’s OT Programs were packed with relevant topics and learning experiences, however, given the number of students moving into private practice after graduating - should there be business skills training included in the course??

From my experience, having started Early Links only 6 months out of University, business education is vital. Not only to support a long lasting business but to underpin clinical excellence in the programs and services provided. Do I think a health related University degree is the right place to get this education - NO I DON’T… Maybe an introduction in the form of an elective subject, covering skills that generalise into any area of employment. Supported experience in real-world business is key, and in fact, studying entrepreneurship is probably a better match with the rapid changes we are likely to see in the health industry with the advances in technology and medicine. To be honest, the sales and marketing training I did last year with The Entourage helped me immensely in my acute hospital job. Having the skills to listen for concerns, discuss any objections and deliver a solution the patient (customer) thought of as their own, was invaluable when resolving conflict about discharge planning.

To help other health professionals learn these skills Early Links has started a Personal Mentoring Program - Learn More


Goal Setting

Jennifer and I were fortunate enough to be selected by the academic panel to present our work on Goal Setting as a short presentation on the last day of the conference. Together with our literature review and surveying of our clients (thanks to those who completed surveys), we realised that Goal Setting is an intervention on its own. Simply writing down the goals is not enough those. There needs to be three (3) aspects considered. At Early Links, we have developed the “S-PACE tool” which captures these elements and assists Occupational Therapists to facilitate discussion, thinking and clinical reasoning for each of the three (3) aspects

  • Activity based S.M.A.R.T. goals - WHAT

  • Perception of current skills and skill progression - WHEN

  • Detailed outline of abilities that underpin skills development - HOW

Another approach the Skill Development that was widely discussed throughout the conference was the CO-OP Approach - Cognitive Orientation to Occupational Performance. This approach allows the child to pick their own goal (outcome) for the practice of a certain skills. The child then creates a motor-plan, before doing the action, and checking their performance against their initial goal & plan.

CO-OP = Goals + Plan + Do + Check, repeat.

We have been using this approach with some of our families over the last month with pleasing improvements in gross motor coordination and thinking skills around problem solving and challenge.

Do you think your child would benefit from this approach? Let us know… http://www.earlylinks.com.au/call-us/   


In many of the presentations playfulness was defined and discussed. What stood out for me was the idea that playfulness is not the same as childlike-play. In fact, one study suggested that adults who “play” have greater life satisfaction, wellness, mental flexibility and are better able to cope with challenge. So what is “play” ??  One suggestion is that - Play is risk-taking within the bounds of personal abilities, creativity, and social contexts.

Early parts of some research have indicated that children who have playful parents learn to play  more easily and develop better coping strategies than children whose parents play with them.

Over the coming weeks we will send out some additional resources that you can use to build playfulness into your daily life… for now, try being creative and silly with the contents of your recycling bin today, but remember that PLAY is risk-taking within your personal abilities and social context.

Wow, what a week it was in Melbourne…

If you are keen to know more about the interventions highlighted above or to discuss the idea of playfulness and productivity, why not reach out and invite yourself to our "Sip & Share" event - Date TBA