Sunday, June 26, 2016

Change and Transition into the Future

As my second term as your OTAC President comes to a close, I can look back and see what an amazing 4 years this has been. OTAC has experienced growth on many levels and during this fiscal year, your 2015-2016 OTAC leaders and staff have worked diligently to bring you a range of regional activities (e.g., networking, town hall, meet & greets, legislative updates and receptions, educational events) across the state. (See my article in the March 2016 issue of the OTAC newsletter for more on OTAC activities and other information, posted on the OTAC website - under Publications.)
2015 - 2016 Board and Committee Chairs
I also want to acknowledge the board members and committee chairs who served during the prior 3 fiscal years (2012 - 2015) of my terms as president, and thank them for their participation and leadership.

The 2016-2017 Board & Committee Chairs (all not pictured)
The incoming 2016 - 2017 leadership team is eager and ready to build on this momentum and move OTAC forward beyond 2017 with its new strategic plan and priority action areas of Value and Advocacy. We can look forward to implementation of ideas for OTAC to continue building its resources, services, and tools for members; promoting and increasing public and stakeholder awareness of the distinct value of occupational therapy; developing collaborative relationships with key entities; engaging members in advocacy activities; and continuing advocacy efforts on key initiatives (e.g., in mental health, school-based OT practice) and ongoing monitoring of legislative, regulatory, scope of practice, and reimbursement issues this next fiscal year.

It's an exciting time for the Association. OTAC has a new Strategic Plan; we are celebrating OTAC's 40th Anniversary, with special festivities planned for our Annual Conference in Pasadena; and the OT Centennial float will be presented at the 2017 Tournament of Roses® Parade! Don't miss out on the opportunity to part of the action.

OTAC works on your behalf and we have accomplished much through your support as members. I thank you for the honor and privilege to serve as your president. As a long-time member and volunteer, I will continue to serve and support OTAC in other capacities. We can anticipate great things to happen for OTAC; for you, the members, and for further advancement of the profession of occupational therapy in California. I hope to see you at #OTACconf2016 in Pasadena! #OTACturns40

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Early Play Experiences and the Value of Play

I saw this poster a little while ago, and it reminded me of how much time we had as young children to play, purely for the sake of play. it also reminded me of how much we learn and develop as we play. This is not only because I am an occupational therapist who works with children, but also because most of us do not realize at the time we are engaging in play as children, that we acquire, develop and refine skills; experience dimensions of space, depth, motion, distance, speed, quantity, volume, height, width, form, etc.; negotiate with peers and resolve conflicts; create scenarios for make believe and retell stories; figure out and learn how things work; and so much more! As we grow older, we find out what our interests are, what we are good at, and what we like to do for relaxation and leisure.

My Early Memories of Play

I do not remember much that happened before age 5 years, but my mother once told me that when I was 3 years old, I could remember all 50 states and name them in order from a map puzzle I played with. I vaguely remember the puzzle, but don't remember being able to name all the states. However, I do enjoy all kinds of puzzles and my interest in puzzles apparently was sparked and developed very early!

I was also reminded of the contribution the physical and social environment has in supporting or limiting children's play. The first home I have clear memories of living in had a large backyard with dirt, grass, a swing set, a tree to climb, and lots of space to play games with a ball, jump on a trampoline, and run around. There was also an empty lot next to our house, which served as another play space for running, riding our first tricycles and bikes, finding and letting caterpillars crawl on our hands, and exploring hidden "treasures."

My father owned and worked at a small grocery store on the corner across the street from the empty lot (he did't have to drive to work!) and my mother helped him at the store. My first playmate was my sister, who was about 14 months younger than me (and two more sisters followed a few years later). Sometimes my sister and I would play in the back stock room of the store, imagining the stacks of large unopened boxes were mountains to climb, or neat places to hide behind. For indoor play, we had toys, games, dolls, puzzles, children's books, etc., which did not have all the electronic features that come with today's toys. However, some toys and materials, such as Play-Doh, and Crayola crayons are pretty much in their same form, although these now come in all sorts of variations with a lot of extras and accompanying tools.

Play in the Neighborhood

When I was around 7 or 8 years old, our family moved to a different house. There was a small front yard with grass, a garage and another house in the back (which my parents rented for a while), and a concrete "backyard." So we no longer had a large space to play outdoors. Instead, we played with other children in the neighborhood, playing games such as hide-and-seek, kick the can, tag, hopscotch, etc., and variations thereof as we created new rules or ways to play these games. We also roller-skated, rode our skateboards, jump-roped and also rode our bicycles on trips around the neighborhood. My mother would also walk with us to a nearby park where we could play softball. We also played all kinds of board games and card games as a family. Unfortunately, many children today do not have the same degree of opportunities for outdoor play in the neighborhood due to safety concerns, lack of time, or limited contact with other families and children in the area. 

Play at School

At the elementary school I attended, the playground had sand boxes, monkey bars, swings, a slide, horizontal bars, rings, handball courts, tetherball, hopscotch, foursquare, etc., all of which we took full advantage during recess. Today some school playgrounds no longer have swings or climbing structures, or they have smaller play spaces (with safety and liability concerns given as the rationale), and some schools have eliminated recess (to have more time for academics and meeting state standards), which some experts and researchers say has an impact on students' ability to sit still, concentrate and attend to instruction in the classroom. (See,, and also see occupational therapist Angela Hanscom’s blog post at

Recapturing Playfulness and Free Play

My sisters and I did not go to preschool, but we grew up with a huge range of opportunities for play,and we were fortunate to have had these experiences without major injuries (e.g., no broken bones). Many community preschools have wonderful play areas and there are organizations that build playgrounds using universal design for all children to access and enjoy. We also have organized sports, which have tremendous benefits for team building, discipline, and healthy competition. However, introduction to and participation in such sports at younger ages have also raised concerns about injury and safety for these young children whose brains and bodies are still developing. Children are also experiencing higher expectations and demands to perform well, to win, and do things the "right" way.

As occupational therapy practitioners, we view play as a meaningful occupation for children that promotes their development, health, and wellbeing, and perhaps more significant is the experience of "playfulness" and joy during engagement in play activities. This is especially true of free play (which does not mean there is no adult guidance or facilitation, or adult supervision when appropriate), where children get to think of, plan, create, negotiate, and problem-solve how their play unfolds and the direction it takes. Many children, including children with disabilities and special needs, are over-scheduled with little time set a side for free play; or their play time may have an emphasis on specific skill development and practice, or following an adult-directed format of what the play looks like and how the play should unfold. 

Occupation, and its role in health, is at the heart of what we as occupational therapy practitioners do in everyday practice with our patient and clients. We promote the value of achieving a balance of work (or school / learning for children), rest, and play. Our lives, including those of young children, are busy and we are involved in so many activities, including using technology and social media that take up our time. Many of us could do better to have more balance in our work/rest/play routines. Structured, organized, adult-directed play has its place, but there also needs to be a balance with opportunities for free play in a safe environment, where children can make mistakes, create a magical world, learn to resolve conflicts, or explore different roles, and be playful, have fun, and experience joy. (See an article I wrote in the March 2009 OTAC Newsletter, Play is More than Fun for Children, for more on this.)

I love to watch children at play, and it is also wonderful to see a parent or teacher on the floor with a child or group of children having just as much fun as the children! I don't necessarily remember all the specific toys and materials I played with as a young child, but I do remember the feeling of spontaneity, creativity, and fun while engaging in play activities with my sisters, children in the neighborhood and elementary school, as well as with my family. 

Sharing your Early Play Experiences

I am curious to hear from you (OTAC members and practitioners, as well as others) about your early play experiences i.e., preschool through elementary school). What are some of your memories of early play as a young child? Who did you play with and in what environments did you play? What were your favorite toys and play activities? How are children's early play experiences today different from your own experiences and those of children 10, 15, 20 years ago? What are some strategies you use to promote and keep playfulness in the lives of children, as well as to ensure you as adults have balance in your work/rest/play routines? #EarlyPlayYears  @otacpresident  @OTACNews
Pat S Nagaishi (Facebook)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Starting the New Fiscal Year

It is hard to believe that it has already been one year into my term as your OTAC president, and that we are now in the new fiscal year of 2013-2014. It struck me that we all operate on multiple calendars as we engage in our various roles and daily occupations. We mark and organize our time around the calendar year for monthly due dates (e.g., paying bills), activities with friends and families, chores, appointments, vacations, holidays, etc. Those of you who also operate on an academic calendar (as I do as an OT working in the school setting) know that the school year ended in May or June, and there is a summer break. My summer break began about 2 1/2 weeks ago, and I will return to begin the 2013-2014 school year in early August, the same week in which our first OTAC board meeting will occur. There is this overlap of time that includes endings, beginnings, and transitions, and it is amazing that we can keep everything straight, even with the benefit of technology!

For OTAC, this new fiscal year signifies the beginning of terms for newly elected and appointed leaders, as well as the start of another year for returning leaders. We have a new 3-year strategic plan and goals; and committees, regional directors and directors-elect, officers, and the OTAC staff have begun implementing activities toward achieving these goals. We are starting the year preparing for a leadership orientation and training in a few days, and our first board meeting of the year on August 10th. We also have timelines for the activities, programs, events, advocacy efforts and services that are available to you or are conducted on your behalf (e.g., the newsletter, regional events, annual conference, etc.).

Region 5 Meet and Greet Events
One of the things that many of you have asked for is more regional activities that are in areas closer to where you live and work. Responding to this need is among our primary goals for this year, and I had the pleasure of attending two Region 5 "Meet and Greet" events this past week. The first event was held at the OTAC office at the Association Resource Center (ARC) in Folsom on Wednesday, 7/24/13, and the second event was held at Friends House in Santa Rose on Thursday, 7/25/13. These events provided an opportunity for occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students to come together for some refreshments, to catch up with colleagues they hadn't seen for a while, make new connections, and learn more about what is happening in their different areas of practice, the profession, and with OTAC. Areas of practice represented included home health, geriatrics, adult rehab, acute care, hands, management, school-based, and early intervention among others. A range of experience was also represented from students in OT and OTA programs, to practitioners in their first job, practitioners with 5+ years' experience, to those with 20+ years or who are now retired.

At the OTAC Office at ARC (not pictured are two
additional practitioners who arrived after this photo)

Those who attended the event in Folsom got to see where the OTAC Office is and where the OTAC staff, including our executive director, Karen Polastri, work so diligently on your behalf. They also got to meet the president of ARC, Stephen Hamilton.

At Friends House in Santa Rosa

Those who attended the Santa Rosa event got to see Friends House, which offers independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation programs, and they also heard our Practice Ethics & Reimbursement Committee Chair, Elizabeth Gomes, talk about what this committee does, ask for input on what else they would like to see from this committee, and invite them to participate in the online communities, OTAC Forums, accessible on the OTAC website to discuss issues, exchange information, share ideas, and build connections.

Both groups also heard more about two programs available to members, MyOTLicense, and Dynamic Learning Online. There was great discussion as well at both events covering issues that were of concern to the practitioners including health care reform in California, challenges in obtaining quality durable medical equipment for patients, and OTAC advocacy efforts. It was also exciting to hear the personal experiences and professional goals the attendees shared, such as preparing for a medical mission to Costa Rica; a goal to teach and do research; working as a media consultant; being a traveling therapist; and much more. 

These discussions generated an offer from the occupational therapist, Lori Louise Lawrence at Friends House, to offer to host this event on a quarterly basis. All in all, these events were stimulating, enjoyable, and a wonderful opportunity to make connections, learn new things, and acknowledge the diversity and contribution each practitioner brings to our profession. 

Be sure to check the OTAC calendar and other communications for upcoming regional events in your area. You can also arrange your own gathering. Provide the OTAC office with the date, time, and location, and the OTAC office will handle registration, name badges, and any OTAC materials you may need. Contact or call the office at 916-567-7000 or 888-686-3225.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pasadena Photo Tour

Hello OTAC Members and Guests!

We have had some "glitches" in getting this blog going (which have now been resolved) and I had the best of intentions to make regular posts, but somehow time seemed to slip away without me getting to it. However, I will do my best to keep up.

I had the following post ready in early February, when we ran into some posting challenges. So although a little delayed, here it is:

Those of you who attended the OTAC Conference in Pasadena in October 2012 may remember seeing the display at the Hospitality table with photos of me at my favorite places and things to do in Pasadena.  Some have asked how we decided to do this.

The idea for this “photo tour” came from our Vice President, Heather Kitching, as a way to showcase the conference host city and for you to get to know a little about your President.  I provided the Hospitality chair, Akemi Davies with a list of the places and things I loved about Pasadena via email, with a few words about what was great about each of them. Akemi enlisted the expertise of her sister, Amanda Davies (owner of Seivada Photography) and we set off one morning to drive to these places and take the photos.

As I had written about what I liked about Pasadena and the places and things to do that I enjoyed, it was evident that they reflected the occupations that are meaningful to me – reading, going to see independent movies and attending cultural events, shopping for handcrafted gifts, dining with friends, etc. as well as the things that make the city special, the architecture and history (City Hall and Old Pasadena), the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl, and the variety of arts and entertainment venues it offers. Pasadena is also my home and community, where I work, where family and friends are close by, and I do not have to travel far to do and enjoy all kinds of activities. Here is a sampling of what was included in the Hospitality display.

Vroman's Bookstore

Reading and books have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My sister remembers that our mother read to us and taught us to read early on, and I remember checking out several books at a time from the library at the elementary school I attended. I love to read, although I do not get to do as much now as I would like. So, it is natural for me to enjoy bookstores, and in particular, Vroman’s Bookstore. I like that it is a family-owned, independent bookstore that is a big part of Pasadena’s history, as the oldest and largest bookstore in California. It has loyal customers (of which I am one) and has stayed in business even as some major chain stores have come and gone. I like to browse through all parts of the store, and to read the recommendations from the staff and readers. I also find great gifts there. I easily could spend a significant amount of time in the store and I often leave with purchases. They have great sales and I have bought children’s books for the “library” area in our preschool assessment room. For this photo, Amanda, the photographer, suggested that I jump up and reach toward the sign, and it made for a fun photo.

Laemmle Playhouse 7

Right next door to Vroman's is the Laemmle Playhouse 7, which is part of the art house chain, and a great place to see independent and foreign films. I enjoy going there with friends to see movies and we often will also stop at Vroman's and / or go to dinner nearby.

The Folk Tree Gallery and Store

Another occupation that has been part of my life since childhood is engaging in art and craft activities of all kinds. It is also one of the things that drew me to occupational therapy. I enjoy going to craft fairs and love finding unique jewelry and gifts. I appreciate the work and creativity that is involved and I also love the process of making things. There are several stores in Pasadena that sell handcrafted items from all over the world. The Folk Tree has a variety of Mexican folk art and crafts from indigenous cultures, as well as showcases the work of artists in their gallery. By the way, for this photo, I stood on a narrow window ledge to be at a level to position my arm at the logo on the door.

These are some of the places and things that I like to do in Pasadena. It’s a great city and has a lot to offer. We are thinking about doing a “photo tour” of Sacramento for the OTAC Conference 2013. I am familiar with some parts of Sacramento, but if you have any “must see” recommendations, please let us know. I would love to explore some of the places that you suggest that highlight the best of Sacramento.

Monday, March 25, 2013

As of July 1, 2012, I began serving as your OTAC President. It has been a smooth transition, thanks to the mentoring providing by the outgoing president, Shawn Phipps and our terrific leadership team. However, I realized that my preparation for this leadership role began much earlier, as an occupational therapy student. The developmental process was initiated at that time, with the values of professionalism and life-long learning instilled, and progressing from entry-level practitioner through 30+ years and continuing today. I am proud to be an occupational therapist and to serve as your president. Let me know what you would like to hear about OTAC and our activities, as well as how best we can serve you, the members. I would also love to hear about occupational therapy practice in your region, your area of practice and interests, and the great things happening in your community.

Originally posted July 15, 2012