The main aim of my #VirtualOTPlacement is educating people about the importance of online communities and over the upcoming months, online communities may be the only way anyone can stay connected and not just disabled people due to COVID-19. I must admit on a personal level I’m very relieved that I’m doing this placement especially now that cerebral palsy is one of the named conditions to have an increased risk to CONVID-19 according to Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK and protecting older people and vulnerable adults.
Online communities are vital for many disabled individuals as it allows us to connect. I for one wouldn’t be writing this blog today without the support of the online disabled community. This community has helped me to realise that my disability is a strength and not a weakness. I have connected with many disabled individuals online in which some I have been lucky enough to meet. Being able to connect with someone who understands my disability is great as enables me to share things that my able-bodied friends can’t relate to and I know that I am not the only disabled individual that has gained a lot for the online community in recent years.
‘The online community means support and shared experiences.’– Francesca Hughes, @franariella
‘Variety, measured opinions and support’- Sue Hilsdon, @therapy2optimum
The online community also enables parents to stay in contact and share experiences of raising their child with a disability. ”There’s no handbook on parenting” so therefore, there’s no handbook on how to raise a disabled child meaning parents aren’t aware of the hurdles that come up. Online communities enable parents to connect and to feel like they’re not alone it can be very lonely when no one around you is experiencing similar situations. But online communities allow experiences to be shared making people feel less isolated not only this they can shared tips too I often learn many tips from the disability blogs that I read.
‘The online community has been the greatest support for us since discovering my son Tommy would be born with Down’s syndrome. We have made so many online friends who are always there to lift us up when needed and share all the joyous moments with.’ – Amanda Gaughan, @my_upside_down_rainbow
Many of us up and down the country are experiencing self-isolation. It’s hard having to self-isolate when you’re used to being a ‘busy bee’ but for many of us, this is only temporary. For some disabled individuals’ self-isolation doesn’t change daily life that much as leaving the house is already harder for them. A lot of people already use the online to keep connected with family and friends as ‘popping out’ is not just straight forward. It’ll be a lot harder when it comes to activities of daily living though, how can disabled individuals self-isolate? I know I couldn’t I’m far too dependent on my parents and when I’m ill this is when I need help the most.
‘It allows my son with quadriplegic spastic CP and epilepsy to stay in contact with me via FaceTime.’ – Nicola Oddy, @alilou250969
For OT’s working in the third-sector or somewhere, where there is no other OT’s it can be hard as they don’t have an OT colleague to bounce ideas off. But being online and connecting with others can bridge this gap by providing reassurance and support when not even all their work colleagues understand the ins and outs of occupational therapy. As some OT’s do not have the title occupational therapists in their work environment which means the not everyone, they come in contact with at work will know that they’re a registered OT.
‘Peer support when I was the only OT working at my company.’ – Ellie Rosslyn, @EllieOTforKids
Being online allows us to connect with others internationally. This is important as it allows us to gain new insights and explore what is happening within occupational therapy worldwide. For some of us, it’s hard to get over to international conferences due to money, support and medical needs etc. But by sharing information and connecting with other professionals online we can learn from each other and share knowledge. Alright, you won’t get the same experience as you would at a conference but it’s better than nothing and this year, creating webinars and hosting live chats may be our only option during the pandemic. I don’t know about you, but I like to keep myself busy if we can still share content and keep our brain working by connecting online than this will increase our wellbeing.
‘Connecting internationally and discussing the delivery and core skills of occupational therapy.’ – Margaret Spencer, @margaretOT360
‘Support. In each sense of the word’– Laura Elle, @Laura_Does
As mentioned, we can learn a lot from online communities through pages such as #OTalk I join #OTalk every Tuesday at 8 pm and I learn so much every week! A lot is happening through #OTalk and on Twitter since the COVID-19 outbreak as OT’s are taking to Twitter to share meaningful occupations that people can carry out during self-isolation by using the hashtag #occupationinisolation. As an occupational therapy student, I think it’s vital at this time that I take to social media to remind others of the simple and meaningful occupations they can achieve without leaving the house I am very much enjoying scrolling through my Twitter feed to see how the OT community is coming together. But there needs to be more. A lot of people are scared of being active online and rightly so there are people out there that target, bully and trolls others but, if you use the online community in a safe way and connect with the right users it can be a great place. Logging onto Twitter on a Tuesday night and connecting with other OT’s and OT students from around the world improves not only my knowledge but my wellbeing.
‘The online community is a place I can share information but also bounce ideas off people and see what others have done before me. In this time of social distancing it is also a support system, a place people can come together to pick each other up when times are tough.’ -Kristina Renee Marchiori, @MarchioriRenee
‘It means a chance to share, educate and learn. I feel both my personal and professional development is hugely impacted by online communities and the use of social media. I feel as though I reap the benefits and fortunately do not experience many negative effects.’- Annie Severn, @AnnieSevern_OT
My OTalk about my Experiences of the Journey From a Service User to a Professional has been brought forward to next Tuesday at 8 pm. Feel free to join- even if you loiter!
I’m fortunate as this placement has come at the right time for me as many of my placement plans can still go ahead, but at times likes this it’s family that is important. Which is why my featured imaged for this blog is me with the 3 people I love the most in this world. I’m lucky that my family and I can all be together during the pandemic so, from my family to yours stay safe.
Links to online communities where we can connect during this time:
Thank you for reading,