Occupational Therapy J-Term Class Spotlight: Reframing the Meaning of Disabilities to Families

We chatted with Department of Occupational Therapy student Kathryn Pelech to learn more about her experience in the department’s J-Term class Reframing the Meaning of Disabilities to Families, taught by Dr. Judith Grossman. Dr. Grossman is an Associate Director at Ackerman Institute for the Family, as well as Project Director for Resilient Families: Children with Special Needs. The class examines family-centered care for families with special needs, taking into account theoretical approaches as well as experiences of parents and other care providers.

Where are you from, and what brought you to Steinhardt to study Occupational Therapy?

I am originally from Belle Mead, New Jersey, and I studied Health and Exercise Science at The College of New Jersey for my undergraduate degree. I was drawn to the Occupational Therapy Program at Steinhardt due to the accomplished faculty and the opportunity to work in such a culturally rich urban environment, which is where I ultimately see myself staying in the future.

What made you interested in taking the “Reframing the Meaning of Disabilities to Families ” course this winter?

In my career as an occupational therapist, I hope to work with children with special needs and at-risk youth in collaboration with their families. I felt that this course would prepare me to provide exceptional quality family-centered services.

What are some of your favorite aspects of the class?

Dr. Grossman encouraged us to learn about family resilience from the “inside out”, by reflecting on the structure and dynamics within our own personal families, which I found to be a very valuable and enlightening approach. I also felt inspired after hearing about Dr. Grossman’s professional endeavors, and how she has integrated family-centeredness in her practice

What is one important thing you learned from the course that you may have not otherwise come across?

I learned about the sheer impact that positive familial bonds can have on an individual’s capacity to overcome life’s challenges, and the importance of promoting this social support network when working with clients and their families.

What do you hope to accomplish with what you’ve learned in this class?

I hope to apply the knowledge I have gained from this course to recognize and respond to the needs of not only my future clients, but their families as well. On a larger scale, I would also like to work cooperatively with other service providers to address the barriers to family-centered care that exist within current societal systems.

What made you want to become an occupational therapist, and how has Steinhardt helped you fulfill those goals?

I wanted to pursue a career that was devoted to helping others achieve their goals and improve their quality of life. The Steinhardt faculty members have been extremely supportive and have offered unique perspectives from their diverse professional backgrounds and experiences, which has opened my eyes to the endless opportunities that the field of occupational therapy has to offer.