Interview with an OT: Taylor Newswanger
Taylor Newswanger is an occupational therapist (MS, OTR/L) with VisionCorps, who received her Masters in Occupational Therapy from Alvernia University. She came to VisionCorps a little more than two years ago after working previously in geriatrics. Now she continues to work with the senior population and younger clients, as an occupational therapist specializing in low vision.
How did you get into OT?
In middle school, we had career shadowing and I did not know what to do. My mom suggested OT as she was interested in that when she was in college and thought it might be something I would enjoy. I followed an OT in a retirement community and from then on, it was my plan to become an OT. The mix of medicine, creativity, and compassion is what makes it different from other therapies and so rewarding.
How did you end up working in low vision?
I had a vision course in school that drew me to low vision. It’s not very common to specialize in that, but I’ve been doing it now for about two years.
What is the most rewarding thing about working at VisionCorps?
Every client is different. When you can sit down and give someone the littlest suggestion, that makes a big difference to them. You see their face light up, and that’s pretty neat. Whether it be reading, cooking, or finding clothes…it can be as simple as self-care, or labeling systems that help manage their daily lives in the home.
Can you elaborate on what you do as an occupational therapist?
Occupational therapy in low vision covers such a wide range of topics and skills, particularly because vision loss affects all aspects of your life. When I first meet with clients, I work with them to develop a plan that will meet their needs. Occupational therapy can cover reading, technology instruction, kitchen safety, marking and labeling items you use every day, fitting clients for custom lighting, and much more.
What do you enjoy doing the most with clients?
There are clients that you just get a connection with right away. They may even open up to you about other things. Yes, we’re focusing on vision, but when those things can help other aspects of their life, it makes you feel like you’re doing your job right.
When a person really thinks about their life and what their goals are…when they realize they can still do these things in spite of their vision impairment, that makes a big difference.
What does your position entail?
As the OTR (Registered Occupational Therapist), I conduct a screen with clients to determine if there are functional needs to be addressed in OT. If they identify areas of need and agree to OT, I complete an evaluation where the client and I come up with goals that will be addressed in the plan of care that the COTA carries out with the client. OT looks at the client from a holistic, client-centered viewpoint including any medical condition that could affect their hobbies, daily activities, routines, and quality of life. Based on that, we work on what is most important to the client to regain quality of life and independence.