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Staff stories: Natalie Goodwin - occupational therapist

Natalie has been with Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s Alstonville team since the doors opened in 2008.

It was during a volunteering stint as a hospital assistant when Natalie observed the occupational therapists working with patients that she realised it was the career for her.

 “I got a sneak peek into what the job meant, and from that moment, I knew it was for me.” Natalie studied at University of Queensland and brought her skills back to Alstonville after graduating in the top 10 per cent of OTs worldwide.

“My wish for my clients is to be their best, achieve their goals and not feel limited. My job in supporting this for them is to break down the barriers, then provide them with the tools and processes so they can succeed."

 “Occupational therapy is about human performance and how we can improve that performance through rehabilitation or intervention.

At university I was trained to analyse tasks and identify roadblocks. Then it’s about finding an individualised clinical solution to break through the barrier because no two people are the same.”

 And at Cerebral Palsy Alliance, we’ve seen how working with an OT like Natalie can achieve for an individual.

Many may know young Riley from the ABC Catalyst television program, Superhuman.

Natalie worked with Riley for six years and was the person who introduced him to his motor wheelchair and communication device.

She said that “being there for his big moments talking and moving in his chair, they are the special moments you have. I was so proud of him when I saw him on the show.”

Riley’s story is one of hundreds that Natalie has been a part of during her career. “I’m proud of all the achievements of the people I work with – it’s about their goal and what they are working towards.”

“One of our clients had had a stroke and did so well with her rehabilitation that she surpassed her goal to improve her upper body strength.

When she first arrived at Cerebral Palsy Alliance, she couldn’t do steps, climb or transfer herself into her car.

Now, you wouldn’t even know that she had had a stroke or affected limbs,” Natalie said.

When someone comes to their first session with Natalie, she focuses on what they can do and builds from there.

“We use the demonstrating strength based model, this is where we look at what a person can do not what they can’t do. Then we introduce the concepts of what can be done to add to the things they can do,” she said.

“The best therapy is when they don’t feel like they are coming for therapy because it’s fun, there is play and it’s enjoyable.

"That is the task of the OT; to be creative in our approach and try different activities in the treatment plan."

Natalie estimates that she has worked with more than 400 people since she joined the organisation in  2008.

As well as supporting clients to achieve, and sometimes surpass their goals, Natalie and her colleagues provide education sessions, equipment clinics, CP Check-Up programs and remain up to date with the latest training and methods.

Read our earlier blog post to find out more about the role of an occupational therapist, and how they support people with disabilities.