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Occupational Therapists Build Independence

The Gillette occupational therapy team in St. Paul is ready to help children build independence and confidence. 

The Gillette occupational therapy team in St. Paul is ready to help children build independence and confidence. 

They help children learn how to button their coats, prepare a bowl of cereal, or use scissors. They also help children lean how to use adaptive devices, regain strength and function in their arms, and improve activities that are meaningful to them.

Occupational therapists (OTs) help children who have a traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, stroke, brachial plexus, or another complex condition. The team of skilled occupational therapists at Gillette Children’s help children learn the everyday skills they need to function in their home and communities.

When you come to Gillette Children’s you’ll collaborate with one of the nation’s top providers of pediatric inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation therapies. Gillette Children’s has occupational therapists throughout the Twin Cities metro area in our St. Paul, Phalen, Burnsville and Maple Grove clinic locations. Gillette also provides access, if appropriate, to children throughout the region through virtual appointments.

The therapists at Gillette are experts in making the hard work of therapy seem fun. The OTs know children are motivated by play so they often incorporate toys, dress-up, or pretend scenarios to get children active.

The Gillette Children's OT team in Maple Grove includes Caitlyn Hanson, Wendy Aeling, Jamee Smith and Jessica Schiller. 

The Gillette Children's OT team in Maple Grove includes Caitlyn Hanson, Wendy Aeling, Jamee Smith and Jessica Schiller. 

A team approach and a great care model

Occupational therapist, Emily McCarthy, has been at Gillette for 4 years and says she enjoys working with other therapists to create ways to help children. “Gillette is really known for this team approach and letting two therapists co-treat a patient if it’s needed,” McCarthy says.

“We have a great care model at Gillette,” McCarthy adds. “We focus on what the specific goals are for each child and listen to what the family really wants. This is where the teamwork with other therapists makes our program so strong. You can harness two brains and two different approaches to create a more holistic therapy approach. I think this creates great outcomes.”

OT Sarah Parks agrees that collaboration can spark creativity in treating children. “I love when you can see the transformation. I feel honored to be part of the process. One day a child can’t do something and then through hard work they can feel like they have superhero strength by accomplishing a goal. It’s also wonderful to enjoy the silly things kids say and do!”

Sarah Schluter has been an occupational therapist for 22 years and works out of the Gillette Children’s Burnsville clinic. “I love watching the progress of kids and seeing how truly resilient they are,” Schluter says. “I like being a resource to families and helping to solve problems to help make things easier so a child can engage more in their daily environment.”

Schluter’s colleague at the Burnsville clinic, Megan Foster, also finds helping families a rewarding part of her work. “It’s incredible to help patients adapt their environments and give them tools to help them access joys of childhood and beyond,” Foster says.

Gillette Children's offers high tech environmental control units in three rooms in the inpatient unit. This is unique to Gillette. 

Gillette Children's offers high tech environmental control units in three rooms in the inpatient unit. 

Tools and technology to help

Occupational therapist, Emily Lockman, has worked at the Gillette Children’s St. Paul clinic for 12 years. She wants families to know about the state-of-the-art tools and equipment at Gillette that OTs can use to help motivate children and bring progress.

“We have the Armeo device that allows the occupational therapists to work on gravity-assisted function with patients who have limitations of function. Our OTs are trained on working with augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices,” she adds.

Gillette offers high tech environmental control units in three rooms in the inpatient unit. This is unique to Gillette and this technology offers patients on the inpatient rehabilitation unit the opportunity to independently operate things in their hospital room such as lights, the television, their hospital bed and a computer.

“These high-tech rooms are very helpful and appreciated by patients who have limited control of their upper extremities,” says Gillette Children’s OT Lisa Rounds.

Hard work bring progress

The occupational therapy team can work with other medical professionals to help coordinate other services or specialties that are part of a child’s care plan. For example, with a doctor’s recommendation, OTs can help connect children to audiology, craniofacial and plastic surgery, orthopedics, nutrition and feeding, psychology, and other therapy services.

The Gillette Children’s occupational therapy team is devoted to helping children and families. OT Jacob Sunder says, “One of the best parts of working here is I get to remind patients and family members about all of the hard work and progress they’ve made.”

Do these symptoms sound familiar? Our 30-minute consult appointment could help get answers.

Give us a call at 651-290-8707 to connect with Gillette providers.

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