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Navigating the World of Pediatric Occupational Therapy: A New OTA's Journey

Updated: Dec 21, 2023


certified occupational therapy assistant at a sensory gym

Hello, everyone! I'm Asia Salas, a recently certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) specializing in pediatric care. Join me as I reflect on my experience as a new COTA in a pediatric setting and explore the unique challenges and rewards that come with this role. 


After completing my OTA training, I knew that working with children was where my heart truly belonged. I had worked in an outpatient setting before but mostly with adults, and although I worked with children briefly, when I first got my new job, I thought this was unlike any other clinic that I've experienced. In those first moments, it hit me that I was no longer in school and this was the real world. 


Stepping into my new job for the first time as a new graduate, was both exhilarating and scary. The colorful environment, filled with toys and specialized equipment, was a stark contrast to the clinical settings I had experienced. The rooms were much bigger and it was a little intimidating. I realized that working here would require a different approach and mindset. For the first few weeks, I faced many challenges. This was not going to be easy. Luckily, I had the guidance of my colleagues that would help me grow to my potential. It was time to take all that I had learned and apply it. 


One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is the opportunity to build meaningful connections with my young patients and their families. I've learned that gaining a child's trust is fundamental to the success of therapy. By creating a supportive and engaging environment, I've witnessed firsthand the positive impact it has on their progress. 


Working with children has encouraged me to think outside the box and get creative with therapy activities. From using play-based interventions to incorporating a child's favorite hobbies into therapy sessions, I've found that tailoring activities to each child's interests enhance their engagement and motivation.


There have been moments of frustration and doubt, but seeing a child achieve a developmental milestone or conquer a challenge makes every obstacle worth it. Witnessing a child write their name for the first time or tie their shoelaces independently fills me with immense pride and reinforces my passion for pediatric occupational therapy. 


As a COTA, I've had the privilege of working closely with occupational therapists, speech therapists, and other healthcare professionals. Collaborating as a team has allowed us to provide comprehensive care that addresses the diverse needs of our young patients, emphasizing the holistic nature of pediatric therapy.


My journey as a pediatric OTA has taught me the value of patience, empathy, and adaptability. Looking ahead, I'm eager to expand my knowledge and skills, and I aim to pursue further certifications and training to better serve the children and families in my care. 


My experience as a new pediatric COTA has been transformative, and I am grateful for the opportunities and the children who have enriched my career. To anyone considering a career in pediatric occupational therapy, I encourage you to embrace the challenges and rewards that come with this role. The joy of helping children overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential is what drives me every day. The impact you can make on a child's life is immeasurable.


Written by Asia Salas, AAS, COTA


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