For Rebecca Mohler, MSOT ’90, OTR/L, her passion has always been to serve individuals with special needs. Mohler started volunteering in the resource room at her elementary school in the third grade. In high school, she volunteered for the Red Cross and the Special Olympics. She attended Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where she worked in physical and mental health settings as an aide while pursuing her Bachelor of Science in biology.
“My intent was to graduate and attend either physical therapy or occupational therapy graduate school. The Program had just started their Master of Science in Occupational Therapy degree and were offering a summer “Discovery” week to learn more,” Mohler recalls. “During that week, I fell in love with occupational therapy. I applied to the 3-2 program they were offering through Capital University to complete my undergraduate degree there and my master’s degree from the Program in five years.”
Mohler began her occupational therapy practice in 1991. For the first eight years, she worked in adult and geriatric rehabilitation, home health, nursing home management and in early intervention. For the past 15 years, she has specialized in pediatric practice primarily in school settings. After two years as an independent contractor at local schools, Mohler developed Sendero Therapies, Inc. Today, she has more than 35 physical and occupational therapists on her team, which provide services to four counties in Northeast Ohio. Sendero Therapies, Inc. serves school districts, charter schools, private schools, and provides community consultation for integrated services for students with special needs.
“At the initial expansion of the company, I wanted to address the need for school-based occupational therapy to enhance proper delivery of the educational model. It was also important to me that occupational therapists working in the schools felt supported and had a network and resource through Sendero Therapies, Inc.,” Mohler explains. “I feel we have been successful because we have the administrative structure and support to make this happen.”
In the school and community-based practice setting, Sendero Therapies, Inc. is committed to meeting the needs of all children to support academic, functional participation and social participation using the Response to Intervention (RTI) model. “This allows us to streamline service to children with specific needs requiring specialized therapeutic interventions, children who are at risk using consultation, collaboration and programs designed to support their areas of need, and to all children who can benefit from shared knowledge from therapists. We also provide professional development to their families and educators,” Mohler says. “We use a direct intervention model with 1:1 services, small groups and whole classroom instruction and a consultation/collaboration model with families and educators.”
Mohler also integrates the use of assistive technology into her practice. She has found the use of tablets, apps and voice recognition has a significant impact on providing access to education and social skills development in her students, particularly those with autism and developmental and physical disabilities.
Currently, Mohler feels there is a need in the community to address post-secondary education support, vocational training and leisure skill–social participation for children, young adults and adults. “Five years ago, I partnered with a dance studio whose owner/instructor shares my passion for serving children with special needs. My vision was to provide occupational therapy support to the dancers with special needs. Using an integrated approach at three levels of instruction, we are successfully serving ages 3-21 in adapted dance, integrated dance and independent inclusion. The progress our dancers make in sensory-motor, self-regulation, social-emotional and cognitive-perceptual skills with this program has been amazing. The results of this model have allowed these dancers to experience dance and to develop friendships just like everyone else in the classes," Mohler says.
Working with children for 15 years has allowed Mohler to watch many of them grow and develop into young adults. "There are so many that have impacted me. I have been working with one of my students since she was in preschool. She is graduating this year from high school. She has Rett’s Syndrome, which is a neurodevelopmental disorder that at an early onset age gradually affects their ability to walk, use of their hands and speech. For most of the years, I have worked with this lovely young lady, her main level of communication for academic learning, social participation and making her needs/wants known is through eye movements," Mohler says. "The adaptive equipment, assistive technology and computer software we have used together though the course of her education as been the key to her success for participating in the general education setting with her peers. Her mother is her most dedicated advocate. I admire her as she has such success at getting her child what she needs to succeed and she works so well with the educators and therapists to support her daughter. This is a student who truly needed all her team members to work closely together to meet her educational and functional needs. This child’s success in life under such odds and her parents’ dedication to help her succeed in life brings home to me how important our role as occupational therapists is in pediatric practice."
Her passion for serving those with special needs, especially children, inspires her each and every day. “When a child is able to do something for the first time – tying their shoe, writing their name, making a friend – there is no greater reward as an occupational therapist than seeing the smile on their face at learning what independence feels like.”
Mohler credits her success to the education she received at the Program and as a donor, supports current students so they can achieve their goals. “The Program in Occupational Therapy opened doors to a profession with boundless opportunities for serving others. It created a career path where the sky is the limit and every day is both challenging and rewarding. Without the education I received there, I would not be where I am today. We need more occupational therapists in this world and I am thrilled to be able to share my success with future occupational therapists by helping them financially to receive the quality education I did.”
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