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December 28, 2011

I have worked with children with impairments and their families for most of my 25 year occupational therapy career. For many of those years, I have been concerned that my work likely contributes to disabling the children. Karen Whalley Hammel’s books and articles have inspired me to consider how my work needs to challenge the ideology of normality. I don’t want my work to be concerned with ‘fixing’ children. I want it to be concerned with assisting children to explore living (see p. 188, Whalley Hammel, 2006).

The following quote also expresses something that is very important to me. “It is likely that parents of children with disabilities deal simultaneously with being the object of discrimination from the community, observing discrimination towards their children, and managing their own feelings about disability that may include internalized ableism.” (Neely-Barnes et al., 2010)

I want my work as an OT to challenge ableism (the notion that people with impairments are inferior to people without impairments). I dream of parents being able to enjoy their children without feeling pressured to ‘fix’ them.

I would like to connect with occupational therapists who have similar dreams. Maybe we can support each other to do our daily work in a way that moves us, the people we serve, and our communities towards inclusion.


Neely-Barnes et al. (2010). “Its our job”. A Qualitative Study of Family Responses to Ableism. Intellect Dev Disabil. 48(4): 245–258.

Whalley Hammel, K. (2006). Perspectives on Disability and Rehabilitation. Contesting Assumptions;

Challenging Practice. Elsevier Ltd.

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