The Story behind Healing Your Life Through Activity – An Occupational Therapist’s Story
by Shoshanah Shear
My grandfather though, insisted that occupational therapy was a better career choice. Art, he said, is for when one retires! Actually, he knew quite a lot about occupational therapy, though I did not know it at the time. Somehow, it took many years before I learned just how much my grandfather knew of OT.
My paternal grandfather had died before my father was born and my father died when I was still at school. My maternal grandfather, therefore, was an important father figure in my life and I wished to live up to his expectations for me. Interestingly, the more I studied OT, the more the profession made so much sense. It began to inspire me and fill me with a desire to develop a center offering the best of what the profession is about. I also discovered that all the other professions that I could have studied were included in this one, in OT.
I was doing well in my studies when I developed a chronic illness in the middle of my third year of studying. Though I managed to graduate with my class, earning became a challenge as my income was shared with paying off my tuition and paying for healthcare. When I had been a qualified OT for 7-8 years, the affirmative action in South Africa affected my finding work. Due to my health together with the job situation, I began to explore working privately. It was not long until I met with a very great challenge. Not only was I trying to market myself on a very, very tight budget, but the lack of recognition and understanding of the profession was having a very negative effect on my ability to obtain clients.
Around this time, I began to work with two different families. The fathers were very impressed with what OT offered to their children and family and encouraged me to write a book to educate both the lay person and health professionals about occupational therapy. One of the fathers in particular was adamant that if parents understood what OT can offer their children, they would certainly insist that their doctor refer. He was very upset that his child had waited a number of years before they stumbled upon OT. His distress was heightened after I wrote a progress report for their pediatrician followed by a meeting only to hear that the doctor had not referred as he had no idea that OT could offer the child what was described in the report.
After some thought, I began to write the book with ideas to follow it up with talks and workshops to promote the profession. I submitted the manuscript to over 50 publishers who all turned it down. Some time passed and I found myself helping my mother to self-publish a teenage novel. This experience was the key I needed to open the door to seeing this book come to print. As I began to prepare the book for self-publication, the book changed and evolved until it became the book it is today.
When discussing the book with a colleague, she suggested that the book needed a dedication. After due consideration, I decided the most suitable dedication would have to be to my late grandfather. If not for him, I never would have become an OT or persevered whenever things got tough. Once the dedication was in place, I decided to add some words of my grandfather’s work in assisting the disabled population of South Africa. Through writing up this section I came to appreciate exactly how much of an impact my grandfather’s work had on the developing profession of OT from post WW2 onward. My grandfather’s work provided inspiration and motivation for me and others on many levels. Being able to share some of this in my book is exciting for me. In the end, promoting occupational therapy has become a perfect solution to a frustrating problem and a prefect way to bring merit to my beloved grandfather.