As many of you know, I traveled to Alaska for three years, 12 weeks each year. My assignment included 10 rural villages, and it was quite the adventure. I grew so much as a person and as an OT. One of my favorite experiences was working with a young man named Patrick, who happens to have Down syndrome.
How Music Connected me to a Boy with Down syndrome
Patrick had me at hello, and his enthusiasm for music was positively contagious! I already was musically inclined. I would travel with a small guitar to keep myself company and keep my artist side happy for my 3-4 weeks as I traveled.
My Ability-Driven Solution
Patrick spied my guitar and his heart skipped a beat. It was very clear that he wanted a go at the instrument. I was about to share when someone told me he was not allowed to have guitars because he breaks them. Oh my, was he disappointed at those words. I had to think fast and come up with a way for him to have and enjoy his very own guitar. And that’s when I devised the perfect plan. We would make a guitar!
We set out to make Patrick his own guitar. It was the perfect occupational therapy activity! I cut two layers of cardboard out in a guitar shape. I remember watching Patrick’s eyes form like saucers at the sight. Patrick did most of the duct tape edging. Then we strung rubber bands together for the strings. I had to make this very durable as I wanted it to last him a very long time! Patrick colored and drew his own marking to add his personal touch.
Then the really fun part happened. The principal, Mr. V, said we could hold an assembly, so Patrick could play. I was astonished at Patrick’s rhythm and stage presence. The best part was seeing how happy playing the guitar made Patrick.
Coming up with solutions to enable those who happen to have a disability to enjoy the activities that make them happy, is the main reason why I’ve been an occupational therapist for over 20 years. It’s seeing individuals abilities first that creates the vehicle for my fun, interactive solutions to come alive. While I haven’t heard from Patrick since this time, I hope he’s still rocking on!