Integrating Traditional and Non-Traditional Approaches
I became a pediatric occupational therapist in 1986 with the goal in mind of helping children fulfill their potential in life. Working in the Chicago suburbs, I enjoyed building relationships with my clients and watching them grow in their abilities using traditional occupational therapy techniques. From the beginning I was always interested in staying on the forefront of therapy developments, becoming certified in pediatric Neuro-Developmental Therapy and Sensory Integration early on in my career. However, in 1988, my understanding of the body shifted after a significant car crash resulting in me, myself becoming the patient. In retrospect, the car crash was a blessing. Little did I know then that this car accident would lead me to become not only a functional therapist, but a structural therapist. Having difficulty finding pain relief for my injuries I began to look into alternative medicines and techniques. Through my own experiences and research, I began to recognize the value of alternative approaches and how this non-traditional work helped me and my family, and could also impact the children I treat. Initially, I began learning about CranioSacral therapy through the Upledger Institute, a renowned CranioSacral therapy education center. CranioSacral therapy focuses on the craniosacral system, the cerebral spinal fluid in the body which nourishes the central nervous system. The central nervous system significantly impacts a body’s functioning ability, therefore, focusing on the fluids surrounding that system can alleviate pressure in the body. Dr. John Upledger’s work involves non-intrusive techniques of feeling the body which inspired me to obtain an additional medical license in massage therapy. With each new certification and class, my techniques and understanding of the body resulted in me observing changes in my clients’ function that I hadn’t witnessed previously with solely utilizing traditional occupational therapy approaches. My studies and success implementing CranioSacral therapy into my sessions led me to further my knowledge of another alternative practice approach on the craniosacral system, Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT). IMT is founded by Dr. Sharon Giammatteo-Weiselfish, Ph.D. PT. It expands the treatment of the craniosacral system, as seen in CranioSacral thearpy, using noninvasive, gentle bodywork techniques to the other systems of the body as well. The human body involves multiple systems. Incorporating the work by Dr. Upledger and Dr. Giammatteo-Weiselfish, I now have techniques to assess and treat areas of the body that impact multiple systems of the body which could include the digestive system, nervous system, and cardiovascular system to name a few. By LISTENING to an individual’s body, a practitioner utilizing IMT can assess the various systems of the body that may be contributing to a specific dysfunction, such as decreased joint mobility, difficulty with attention, poor sleep, or pain. Dependent upon the diagnostic findings, there are gentle, hands-on, IMT techniques that can invite the body to change. Through IMT methods, I can bring the body’s attention to an area of tension the patient might not have recognized, discovering the underlying issues for the original compromised functioning of a patient. This approach aids the body in making changes itself so as to instill long-lasting changes.
For those interested, there is a more in-depth explanation of what IMT is and its impact on the body on YouTube by Dr. Ayelet Connell-Giammatteo, Ph.D. PT, Sharon’s daughter.
I enjoy witnessing the changes an individual makes within a treatment session. The structural work is followed up with traditional, occupational therapy approaches creates a cohesive whole-body approach to occupational therapy. During this entire process, the caregivers’ and the child’s goals are the focus of the overall treatment plan. The diverse patients I treat push me to be the best therapist I can for them. Each smile and achievement in our sessions encourages me to take another class and learn a new technique to apply. Most recently, I have been studying the work of Dr. Chikly, specifically his understanding of reflexes and techniques to aid those with Ankyloglossia (tongue and/or lip-tie). You can rest assured that with each new client I have, I dedicate myself to learning new approaches to integrate into our occupational therapy sessions to ensure the child’s progress. Currently, I am working in a small clinic setting in Oak Brook, IL. Being in the field of pediatric occupational therapy for over 30 years, I have only gained a stronger passion to serve others and to learn about the human body. The human body is a complex system that science is continuing to learn about. I feel fortunate to have found a passion that I have committed to with my mind, body, and soul.
Respectfully, -Janet Schultz-Mroz OTR/L C/NDT LMT