I’ve done many reflections on my blog over the last two and a half years about my experiences as a disabled occupational therapy student and have even used my blog as part of a placement (in case you didn’t know seen as I never mention it). Despite this, I have never appreciated how my blog has enabled me to make sense of my time at university.
For any student university is hard and studying with a disability can present additional challenges, especially when studying a profession that you have an emotional connection to because of that disability.
When I was applying to study occupational therapy I remember writing in my personal statement how having a disability means that I can integrate my personal with my professional experience and now I can. I have certainly used my disability as a tool during my studies but it has been challenging too.
Disclosure has been a major issue that has affected my confidence on placement. It’s not clear when and what to disclose- it’s not about me it’s about maintaining person-centred practice. Yet my disability is very visible (well certain parts) and I do have to disclose it in certain situations as talked about before in previous blogs.
Without my blog, I never would have been able to unpick this topic and critically reflect on my situation. This has been a powerful experience and I am thankful that I have been allowed to explore this as I do feel more confident to gauge when I can and can’t disclose- massive thanks to OTalk too!
I’ll always have to disclose my speech impairment and I’m okay with that now and again that’s thanks to being able to write down my feelings in the ‘privacy’ of NSTP.
On my last placement, I had no real issues regarding my speech and when I did I just used text-to-speech- everything was fine! I even find myself informing people about my speech impairment outside of anything university or ‘work’ (whatever work is right now) related which is something that I only ever did when I really had to before. Whereas now I’m more confident to talk about this and inform people that I have AAC if needed.
Reflecting on the 18-year old who was so anxious after that occupational health appointment and thought that she’d never be able to do her dream job makes me realise how much I needed blogging even without realising. My blog has enabled me to be comfortable being an occupational therapist with a difference and has allowed me to explore avenues I wouldn’t have dreamed of exploring!
Not many people get to say they completed an occupational therapy placement they designed using their blog to hopefully start building a bridge being the disability and the occupational therapy online community. I’m so thankful that Margaret negotiated with university to allow me to do this and I’m still in disbelief at what Margaret and I managed to do in those 12 weeks.
The content I produce on my blog is obviously going to change as I transition to a newly qualified occupational therapist but my main drive will be to continue to work tirelessly towards raising awareness of online communities, and advocating for the accessibility of virtual placements for disabled students. I may even be offering one myself this time next year (watch the space!).
I don’t know what is next for me, being the theorist I am, I am petrified and worried that my hunt for an accessible job will be long and hard. Thankfully I know I have the blog to use to reflect on this and write completely different content to escape. Right now, I am going to enjoy slowly updating the website and enabling my transition at my own pace.
Thank you so much to everyone who’s read, liked, shared, commented on any of the blogs I have written about my studies! Without the feedback and my blog, my journey would have been very different and lonely.
So, I’m looking forward to writing about and taking you with me on my next adventure, whatever it may be!