Published on 7 June 2016
Occupational therapist Claire Maike has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of students with an intellectual disability since she graduated from the University of the Sunshine Coast two years ago.
Claire, 25, is employed at a Special Developmental School in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, where she uses activities like horse riding and swimming to help children with profound intellectual disabilities and other sensory needs participate in school life.
The former Bundaberg resident took up the position in 2013, after successfully completing a practical placement in Victoria as part of her Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours).
One of the first graduates of the OT Honours pathway at USC, Claire said it was rewarding to see the students she worked with enjoy themselves and progress in the classroom.
“My day-to-day work basically involves having fun interactions with students while consequently developing their functional skills,” she said.
“I take students horse riding three times a week and coordinate our sensory swimming program, taking students swimming in a hydrotherapy pool each week.
“I also work to transfer this learning back into the school context. For instance, developing core strength when horse riding also enables a student to sit in his or her chair for longer periods.
“Both of these programs are so motivating and beneficial for the students and it's an absolute pleasure to be involved.”
As well as her full-time role at the Special Developmental School, Claire’s passion for the occupational therapy field has led her to start an OT blog and develop a project to support families to gain access to therapy resources.
She said her USC lecturers had inspired and encouraged her to make the most of every opportunity available in her chosen career path.
“I really felt that if I wanted to make something happen, I could,” she said. “The OT department were really passionate about the profession and empowered the students to advocate for it from very early on.
“I was able to coordinate an interstate practical placement with USC's support, which led to a job offer before I had even completed my studies. I was also able to start the annual USC Occupational Therapy Ball, which is still held each year.”
For more information about mid-year enrolments at USC go to www.usc.edu.au/learn
— Gen Kennedy