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Q&A with Rachel Rudman, MS, OTR/L, an Occupational Therapist in Private Practice | NEWS-Line for Occupational Therapists & COTAs

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FEATURE STORY 11/01/2010
Author: Staff  
Q&A with Rachel Rudman, MS, OTR/L, an Occupational Therapist in Private Practice
Rachel Rudman is an OT with an advanced degree in early intervention and her own practice in Cedarhurst, New York. She specializes in pediatrics with a focus on preschool and school age children with fine motor, visual perception, and sensory deficits. Rachel graduated from Touro College with a degree in occupational therapy and has since taken a lot of continuing education classes in sensory integration.

Q: Who or what motivated you to become an occupational therapist?

A: I love working with people. I initially thought I wanted to be a physical therapist, but when I did my initial volunteer hours for PT, I knew I was meant to be an occupational therapist.

Q: Before you became self-employed, where did you work?

A: I worked for Nassau BOCES for one year and then a few years directly for my school district. I have been in private practice for the past 10 years where I work with children ages 2 and up. I have a sensory gym in my basement with suspended equipment, a rock wall, and a trampoline.

Although I work for myself, I am extremely involved with parents and teachers. I have workshops for both and I am published in teachers’ journals. I have written articles on early hand development and managing sensory processing disorders in the preschool classroom. I recently created the Grasshopper Preschool Prep Kits—four kits to get kids ready for school through play.

Q: Can you tell me more about that project?

A: The Grasshopper Preschool Prep Kits are four kits designed to get 3-5 year olds ready for school through games. There are intentionally no workbooks or pencils. All play! I used the fundamental principals of OT to build an entire line of toys for children. Each kit comes with an instructional guidebook that tells the parent the activity objective and has ways to modify the difficulty level of the activity. I took my most successful ideas and packaged them for parents. You can go to www.grasshopperkits.com for more information.

Q: How did you start your practice?

A: I began my practice by word of mouth. I started working with a couple of clients privately who didn’t qualify for district services. The number of clients has been steadily increasing over the years and now I see over 40 clients weekly with a wait list! I have not hired anybody else.

Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities as an OT?

A: The best part about working for myself is that there are no politics. I can truly be an advocate for children and their parents. My responsibilities include working with the children, educating the parents and teachers, and communicating with the schools.

Q: What types of patients/diagnoses do you encounter most frequently?

A: I see a lot of children who have fine motor writing difficulties. Many have difficulty with visual perception and have difficulty with academics. I also work with several children who have Asperger’s disorder and autism.

Q: Can you share a motivational story about your profession?

A: I feel like I have motivational stories each day when I see my clients succeed. The best feeling is when a child realizes his or her own success.

Q: Are there other areas of interest for you as an OT, either clinically or educationally, that you plan to pursue?

A: I have been pursuing the development of the preschool prep kits over the past several years. I had no idea how busy this would become. I love getting great activities into the hands of parents at home.

Q: What are the greatest challenges you face as an occupational therapist?

A: I am truly blessed with my practice. Really the greatest challenge I face is not having enough time to work with more children! My clients are all private pay so I have not had to face all of the insurance and budget cut issues that other therapists have had to face.

Q: What do you like most about your job? What do you dislike most?

A: I love working with children and I love that I make my own hours. The hardest part for me is after a whole day of work, where at times I may see up to 15 students per day, having to return phone calls and speak to teachers and parents. I know how important the communication is so I realize its necessary, but I do find that I dislike that aspect the most.

Q: Are you currently involved with any research projects? Are there any projects that you would like to be involved with?

A: I am not involved with research. Creating and marketing the Grasshopper Preschool Prep Kits has taken up every spare moment of my time!

Q: Do you feel that the role of occupational therapists has changed over recent years? If so, how?

A: My role as a private OT has expanded over the past few years. I am getting more referrals from psychiatrists asking for me to get involved with children before they are medicated for attentional issues. I think that doctors are more aware recently and more open to our services.

Q: What do you feel is of the greatest concern to OTs today?

A: The greatest concern overall of OTs is going to be the funding of our services. I am blessed to have a thriving private practice, but I recognize that is becoming increasingly more difficult for my clients to get insurance reimbursment and many colleagues of mine and friends are facing cutbacks in their schools.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: The most rewarding part of my job is that I know I get to help build children’s confidence everyday. The kids view coming to me as the highlight of their week!

Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned over the course of your career?

A: I have learned that I can’t help everybody. I need to focus on the areas I can do best and know when to refer people out.

Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of entering Pediatrics?

A: I would say that anybody entering pediatrics should really love working with children and know that they are willing to give even more than they initially thought and then some! Children know if you are “on their team.” They can sense it. The first step to achieving success with children is to establish trust. They need to realize you are there for them!

Q: How has working in Pediatrics allowed you to grow professionally?

A: When I began in pediatrics I worked under a supervisor with very specific types of diagnosis. Now I have branched out. There is so much to learn and so many interesting classes to take. The more continuing education I do, the better equipped I am.

Q: If you could sum up your job in one word, what would it be and why?

A: Unpredictable! I never know how I will motivate or inspire a child each day. Children always keep me on my toes. With kids you can plan the most perfect session and have to change it all up at the drop of a hat. As a therapist you need to be able to be flexible and embrace the lack of predictability!

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