THERE ARE DAYS when I stop to reflect about life, and of the choices I have made. My decision to pursue occupational therapy has always been and is still one of the best choices I have made in my 26 years.
Yesterday echoes the heartwarming sentiment I feel whenever I speak of my profession. A day that brought together like-minded occupational therapy colleagues and old schoolmates to celebrate the profession, a day that brought together individuals of different abilities to celebrate life.
I was fortunate to be part of the planning committee in the Singapore Association of Occupational Therapists (SAOT) for Occupational Therapists’ Day 2016. This year’s celebration is our 10th year and involves a commemorative walkathon with the theme STRIDE – Striving Towards Integrating Individuals of Different Abilities.
And guess who got to do the emceeing? Me! Together with my kawan Liwen who had so much energy and was so much fun to work with.
Dr William Tan on stage; in background – a sign language translator
The morning started off with our guest-of-honour Dr William Tan who made an opening speech on what it meant to be an inclusive society. It was nice that he had some very encouraging words for the profession too. Dr Tan is a medical doctor, a neuroscientist and a paralympian. He contracted polio at the age of 2 and was paralyzed from waist down. Later in life, he was faced with a bout of leukaemia. Despite this, he has shown strength in overcoming adversities… as seen in him holding several world records including completing 7 marathons across 7 continents in 27 days. After retiring from wheelchair racing, Dr Tan took up the sport of para table tennis in 2011 and went on to represent Singapore in competitions.
My Daily Rhythmaze ADL-dance
We then had a dance warm-up to rah-rah the crowd, even the ahma was happily busting dance moves in her wheelchair! My Daily Rhythmaze is a series of movements consisting of familiar actions performed in a person’s daily routine – washing face, doing the laundry, making an egg omelette. Pretty creative choreography I must say, especially with the combination of popular oldies songs.
After all the stretching and dancing, we were ready to start the day’s walkathon!
The participants were well-elderly and also clients from various places like Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA), Senior Active and TTSH Rehab. Some of whom were stroke survivors on their first community outing since rehab, and I felt heartened to see caregivers and family members walking alongside them in this journey.
Labrador Park was no doubt an apt choice, the 2.1km walkathon route involved walking along some scenic views of the sea and port. No stopping the group from posing for photographs once in awhile! The participants were kept busy with a little activity sheet with quiz answers along the route like identifying historical landmarks… and no-fishing signs haha.
Photo courtesy of Nizar Zainal
Photo courtesy of Nizar Zainal
We were even given a finisher’s medal! And a pretty-looking one too! The logo for the event was designed by an occupational therapy student who described the vibrant colours as a way to depict the variety of people occupational therapists work with. The spilled ink splotches and coffee stains may seem almost like making a ‘mistake’ on a paper at first glance; but as occupational therapists, we focus on the splotches not as deficits but rather how every client is different. Each splotch is unique, demostrating how each client brings along with them a unique set of abilities. And our job is to help find meaning in those unique aspects to ultimately impact integration and occupations.
Back at the starting/end point, one event booth that attracted the crowd was the mobile massage services provided by our skilful friends from Singapore Association of Visually Handicapped (SAVH). I didn’t get a chance to try but I used to have a regular masseuse in Loyang who was trained at SAVH and had succeeded in open employment. His visual impairment, he says, made him more dependent on touch – to which I say that is why he is so skillful in targeting all the right trigger points on my aching shoulders.
Onwheels Wheelchair Dance Group
The rest of the morning featured stage performance by individuals who champion the idea of inclusion and participation. We had Onwheels Wheelchair Dance Group who showed us how wheelchairs can groove to the beat! They started in March 2014 with just 2 wheelchair users, but have since grown involving both able-bodied volunteers and wheelchair-users.
Fireflies from Faith Music Centre performing “Amazing Grace”
Fireflies from Faith Music Centre was formed recently in mid-2015. This 5-piece band comprises of persons with special needs like autism and Down’s syndrome – each of whom has a love for music most definitely. In the background there were a drummer, guitarist, bassist and two pianists. Their two vocalists were engaging and not shy to get the audience involved. I was amazed to hear that part of Fireflies’ music endeavors also involve sharing their joy of music to residents in old age and children homes. What a meaningful way to contribute to society!
VSOP Dance Group
VSOP simply stands for Very Special Outstanding Performers. And their Bollywood-inspired choreography that morning bears testament of how outstanding these performers truly are. VSOP was started in 2008 by an occupational therapist at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), bringing together enthusiasts in the fields of song and dance. The group aims to promote mental and physical well-being through the use of the arts for its members, as well as educate others to look beyond the label of illness and instead focus on wellness.
Spotted on the back of a t-shirt!
The SAOT OT Day 2016 planning committee
These little moments were special. From our seniors to visually-impaired masseuses to special needs performers and hearing-impaired event photographers… I felt glad to witness our clients with a sense of fervour despite the odds. This celebratory day is not just about the profession, but also the very people we work with and learn from everyday. May us as occupational therapists continue to STRIDE alongside our clients, to champion living a meaningful life that we love.
Happy Occupational Therapists’ Day!