Memories & Connections

To all my friends at the Quad Cities Playhouse, I want to say ‘thank you’ for allowing me to be a part of your GiGi’s family. From the moment I walked in, I have been greeted with nothing but warm smiles and open arms from everyone I’ve met. This experience has been so enriching towards my development as an Occupational Therapist! For those of you who may be unfamiliar with my role at the Playhouse these last 16-weeks, I will take a moment to explain.

As a Doctoral student candidate, part of my curriculum involves developing and presenting a Doctoral Project (DP). The purpose of the DP is to demonstrate a synthesis of all the knowledge I have learned from my classes. Combining philosophies of evidence-based and occupation-based practice, I was tasked with addressing a specific gap in our healthcare system and implementing a practice change that would help to improve health care, health care delivery, or health-related outcomes. The focus topic of my DP is “Unified Sports to Promote Inclusion of Youth with Down Syndrome”.

For my DP, I researched and gathered materials and information necessary to justify, develop, and implement a full Unified Soccer program – coherent with guidelines set forth by Special Olympics. Although it would have been an amazing opportunity to implement this program, my professors and I agreed that there simply was not enough time in the 16-week timeframe. So, instead of implementing a full program, my professors thought it would be equally beneficial for me to be placed in a setting that would allow me to gain experience: (1) advocating for Down syndrome & (2) planning/running programs.

Although I was not able to fully implement my own unified soccer program, Pam and I were able to work out a second option, a one-day basketball camp aka Destination Discovery: GiGi’s Get Up & Play. Despite being a 2-hour condensed version of my original plan, I was still able to gain some experience and insight as to what it would be like to run a unified sports program/practice – not to mention it was also so heart-warming to see how much fun everyone was having!  Thank you all for helping to make that day such a success!

Throughout my time at the Playhouse, I have had the opportunity to help plan, run, and oversee the following events/programs: “i have a Voice” Gala, Fantastic Friends, LMNOP, Family Speaker Series, Leaps and Bounds, Open Play, and Friends Fun & Fitness. In addition to these programs, I have also been able to participate as a tutor for handwriting and keyboarding. Through these opportunities, I have been able to gain experience: leading groups, planning activities, giving presentations, creating informational handouts, interacting with various age groups, interacting with families, and implementing various ‘OT hacks’ to increase productivity of tutoring sessions – i.e. proper seating, sensory breaks, hand/finger exercises to increase dexterity, etc.

One of my favorite projects that I have undertaken at the Playhouse is my Tip Tuesday video posts! In these posts, I help to provide parents/guardians with OT based tips to assist with their child’s development – i.e. core strengthening, mindfulness activities, finger strengthening/dexterity, etc. The best part about making these videos, in my opinion, was being able to work alongside many of my Playhouse friends that volunteered to help demonstrate these tips – you guys were AMAZING!

I could honestly sit here and talk all day about my incredible experience working at the Playhouse, but instead, I will encourage you, if you haven’t already, to come see for yourself. The GiGi’s approach is holistic and unique to each child/family that steps through their doors. The staff understands that each individual’s needs are different and make no fuss over meeting the individual/family where they are at in order to ensure the highest chance of success. As a future professional OT practitioner, I can confidently say that the goals, morals, and ethics of GiGi’s Playhouse closely resemble that of OT.

Although my time working at the Playhouse was short, I will carry the memories and connections I have made here for the rest of my life.  To all of my friends at the Playhouse, thank you from the bottom of my heart, and remember, this is not a ‘goodbye’, but a ‘see you later’!

– Jay Manix, OTD

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