Project Kids CLUB: establishing a pediatric occupational therapy department in the public sector in Trinidad and Tobago
Martinez, Anastasia Raquel
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The benefits of occupational therapy (OT) intervention for children with disabilities are numerous and impactful. Among many other advantages, OT can help children to develop their functional living skills, form relationships with others, improve in motor co-ordination, and transition to adulthood (American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA], 2015). Restricted access to treatment, therefore, can deprive the child, and his or her family of the opportunities to reach their fullest potential. In Trinidad, pediatric occupational therapy is available at private clinics at great costs to families. This is incongruous with the healthcare climate of the nation, in which public-sector care is offered free of charge. Unfortunately, there are no pediatric Governmental OT positions available. Families who cannot afford OT simply will have no access to the services. Three major explanations for the lack of public-sector OT could potentially include doubts of the demand for OT, lack of qualified therapists in the country, and the inability to supply necessary space and equipment. Project Kids CLUB responds to each of these concerns. Primary research demonstrates the irrefutable desire for services, the local Master of Occupational Therapy program provides sufficient staff, and past attempts to begin such a unit resulted in designated space and materials at the Eric William’s Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC), a public-sector hospital in Trinidad. The realization of Project Kids CLUB has the potential to change the landscape of pediatric care for children and families, the Government, and occupational therapists. Families will benefit from free access to quality care that can increase participation, quality of life and wellbeing. The Government will meet an important societal need, as well as fulfill some of its promises to human rights treaties. Occupational therapists will have the opportunity to impact the public-sector and serve one of the most vulnerable groups of clients. The information presented in this project will be disseminated to the target audiences to raise awareness of pediatric OT in hopes that one day, the proposed Centre for Learning and Understanding Behavior (CLUB) may come to fruition. Findings demonstrate that there is demand for and benefits of pediatric occupational therapy, as well as a realistic means of establishing a unit. This project demonstrates that there is no excuse for the lack of services, and no excuse for any child to be left without access to occupational therapy intervention.