Occupational Therapy: Providing the Foundation for Independence


Suzanne Eason, St. Mary's supervisor of occupational therapy support services, uses an iPad with Shanita.

Shanita uses an iPad with assistance from Suzanne Eason, St. Mary’s supervisor of occupational therapy support services. The OT department’s many functions include helping to maintain high-tech systems our residents use to communicate.

April is Occupational Therapy Month, so we thought this would be a good time to feature a guest blog post by Suzanne Eason, supervisor of St. Mary’s occupational therapy support services. She provides some insight into what OT is and what OT means to the children and young adults who live at St. Mary’s Home. 

By Suzanne Eason, supervisor of occupational therapy support services 

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, or occupations.

Occupational Therapy Support Services at St. Mary’s Home is made up of six people who together have more than 150 years of experience working with exceptional individuals. We have a passion to ensure that every person we work with has the most comprehensive, individualized equipment needed to be successful in everyday activities.

We provide the foundation for our residents’ independence by enhancing their highest levels of occupation. We do this by evaluating, creating, fixing and cleaning most of the adaptive equipment each individual needs.

We create wheelchairs that provide mobility to someone who can’t walk and enhance postures for someone who can’t sit up without help. We create most of the splints that help feet, hands and torsos remain as flexible as possible so each individual can be dressed and bathed, go to school, play with toys and electronics and participate in the community. We adapt toys for use by individuals with disabilities by adding switches and mounting them on wheelchair trays for best access.

We also observe and teach staff the most effective way to help our residents feed themselves. We assist the school program at St. Mary’s in maintaining the high-tech communication systems that our residents use to talk with us. With more than 85 residents who range in age from 4 months to 22 years, who grow and change daily, we manage to keep all of their “stuff” working for them while continuing to figure out new ways to enhance their lives and occupations.

St. Mary’s Own Elf

(bottom photo by Weyo)

The hall outside the Occupational Therapy Support Services Department at St. Mary’s Home is decorated like Santa’s Workshop. Inside the department, technician Mamie McCloud is busy as one of Santa’s elves, especially at this time of year. She adapts toys so children with severe disabilities can use them. With an array of tools, she deftly replaces small switches with large buttons that are easier for the children to push to make toys dance or play music.

Mamie is profiled today in a nice feature in The Virginian-Pilot newspaper of Norfolk; you can read the story here.

Be sure to check out the accompanying video, which features Mamie and Suzanne Eason, who supervises OT support services, as well as Ashley and Carrington, two of the children of St. Mary’s Home: