Tea Time with Pediatric OT Mary Kate Galloway

Q: Please tell us a little bit about yourself! What’s your favorite food? Favorite season? Do you have pets? Best place you’ve ever visited? Tell us what makes you sparkle!

A: My name is Mary Kate, and I am a southern gal born and bred! I have lived all around Alabama and currently live in south Alabama (Dothan) with my husband and two dogs - Poppy and Woody. They are my BFFs! My favorite things in life are afternoon iced coffee or hot tea, weekend adventures with my husband/ family, cooking or enjoying a good meal, and traveling! I LOVE Fall (basic, right?!) mostly for the festive decor, anticipation of family gatherings, and (this is a total Peds OT thing to say but..) so many fun themed activities! My favorite place I’ve ever visited is IRELAND! I have a lot of family there so it is fun to go back and hear stories, explore the amazing castles, landscape, etc, and learn about my relatives.

Q: What degree(s) do you have? What made you interested in pursuing OT and what have you been up to since graduation?

A: I have a bachelors of science in Rehabilitation and Disability Studies from Auburn University, and Masters of science in OT from Alabama State University. I graduated in 2017, and KNEW I wanted to go into pediatrics. I moved to a new city for my first job (and am still here now) and I work in an outpatient clinic as well as a few schools in the area. My clinic offers hippotherapy as well as aquatic therapy onsite (aquatic only in the summer) so that has made my experience pretty unique so far. I have really been learning that OT can take place in so many unexpected places! I have always had a passion for being a “helper”. It fills up my love cup to help others, love on others, and create strong relationships with people. I thrive off of knowing that I am helping kids learn skills that will help them through their everyday lives, and get the most out of their days, and educating/comforting parents and caregivers through the process. Celebrating tiny victories with families is my WHY.

Q: What practice setting are you sharing about today? A: Outpatient pediatrics and schools

Q: How long have you worked in this practice setting?

A: 2.5 years

Q: Can you please describe a typical day/work week? What time do you typically arrive/take break(s)/leave work?

A: On a clinic day, I typically arrive at 7:30 to prepare for the day, and I am there until about 5:45 or so finishing up notes, cleaning up, winding down the day.

Q: Do you formally clock in and clock out, if so, how is on the computer or via sheet, etc.?

A: We do everything on paper with my company, so we have a daily time sheet we turn in with our billing.

Q: Who provides you with your schedule? Do you typically stay on this schedule or does it fluctuate depending on the clients’ availability?

A: We have a fabulous office staff who works hard to create our clinic day scheduling, and that typically does not change (for example, my Monday clinic day I see the same kids each week, except for cancellations or reschedules). A school day is totally different. I make that schedule based off a student’s classes, other therapies, etc. It can be ever-changing and a bit more chaotic at times!

Q: How many clients do you typically see? How long do you work with them for?

A: I see most of my kids for 30 minute sessions. On a clinic day I may see up to 16 or so kids- WHEW! Thankful for coffee, y’all! A school day typically varies. I would say average 8-10 kids in a school day, sometimes more or less!

Q: What is the productivity expectation at your job? How do you find meeting it?

A: I am very thankful this is not the biggest emphasis where I work. So I can’t speak much to this topic!

Q: What type of diagnoses do your clients typically have? Can you please provide 1-2 activities you would do in a standard treatment session with one of these clients/families?

A: I see a wide range of ages from babies to teenagers, with diagnoses varying from developmental delay, autism, CP, down syndrome, sensory processing disorders, etc. Pretty much all of my activities look like PLAY! What kids do best! I try to incorporate some sort of movement/gross motor activity to warm up our bodies and prepare for more structured tabletop tasks. We may do a scooter board obstacle course, animal walks, play a game on a swing, or bounce on an exercise ball to kick things off, then move into a fine motor activity such as building a Mr. Potato Head, “feeding my monster” with tongs and pom pom balls, or something of that nature, and then end things with either a self care task or a handwriting/fine motor craft. Lately I have been doing back to school activities like “all about me” handwriting activities, making a school bus with your name on it… things like that!

Q: Do you have meetings to attend throughout the day/week? If so, what do they typically entail and who attends these meetings with you?

A: Not typically during the day. On occasion, I am called into an IEP meeting at school. We have been utilizing microsoft teams a lot during this pandemic and having discipline specific or company wide virtual meetings to discuss teletherapy, back to school procedures and things like that.

Q: What type of documentation do you complete?

A: We do everything on paper. Daily notes include a summary of the activities we did, what goal it addressed, how the child performed/how much assistance/what kind of assistance they needed, etc. Along with a short narrative about education provided, behavior, parent report, etc. It takes about 5-7 minutes per note on average! We turn them in at the end of each day.

Q: What does a typical evaluation look like? How long does it take? What assessment tools do you use?

A: An initial eval in the clinic typically takes one hour. I most frequently use the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales-2, BOT-2, Sensory processing measure, and The Real. Our school evals are more observation based and we discuss concerns with the teacher, gather a sample of writing, cutting, possibly look into visual perception, school appropriate self care like shoe-tying, opening containers in the lunchroom, backpack organization, etc.

Q: How did you get your “foot in the door” to work in this setting?

A: It is very difficult to find a facility that hires new grads in pediatrics… so when I found this opportunity I jumped at the chance! I think it was just good timing.

Q: What is your favorite part of this practice setting? Can you provide a favorite memory of a patient/client that you know OT positively impacted their life?

A: One of my first patients that I took on starting out at our clinic always serves as a reminder as my “why” as a peds OT. We formed a special therapist-patient bond, and I earned his trust. I also bonded with his mom, which was a huge part in his success at our clinic. I encouraged this little friend to interact with our horses during OT (he is typically scared of all animals) but seeing his eyes light up while petting and feeding sweet “Apollo” was a very special day, and a sensory breakthrough for us. Where I live, there are a lot of military families, and this child in particular was in a military family. After working together for about one year, they got orders to move to a new state… talk about heartbreak! But I still keep in touch with them, and it is so rewarding to me to see his progress through social media and texting his sweet Mama. Those relationships are special to me.

Q: What advice do you have for new grads/therapists hoping to transition into this settings?

A: My number one advice is FIND A MENTOR. Pediatrics can be overwhelming with the developmental milestones, coming up with treatment ideas, handling behavior, etc. It really helps to have peers and mentors you can vent to, ask advice, run ideas by, or just swap stories. Also, it is HARD to get a pediatric position straight out of school… I had to move for the opportunity. So it may take extra time or effort on your part, but it’s worth it if it is your passion!

Q: How do you personally prioritize your self-care and prevent/manage burnout? A: Gosh. Let me tell you it has taken up until probably COVID-19 times for me to figure this one out… Working from home made me realize I needed carved out ME TIME! Yall, this is KEY for being a peds therapist. It’s true what they say… you can’t pour from an empty cup. And your cup must be FULL UP to be what your kiddos need every day. I have recently fallen in love with yoga, and other group (socially distanced) exercise classes at the end of the day and it is a game changer!! I also enjoy cooking dinner for/with my husband to end the day. We have started having nightly “tea time” together (no we are not 100 years old okay?!) and it is a great breath of fresh air to end a crazy day! Cuddling my pups is always a go to calming activity for me as well.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I would love to specialize in something in the pediatric world… not sure yet what that will be, but I want to be the one you go to when someone says “oh youre child is struggling with xyz? You definitely need to go see Mary Kate for that! She is wonderful!”. I am ready for some great education and to refine my path as a Peds OT! Any suggestions?!

Q: If you could do it all again would you pursue your same degree and become an OT?

A: I absolutely would! There are long, trying days, but celebrating a child tying their shoe for the first time, or feeding themselves with a spoon on their own, or even writing their name is a celebration that I am SO HERE FOR! Prioritize yourself. Lean on your peers. Ask for help. It is all worth it!


Mary Kate Galloway is a pediatric occupational therapist in Dothan, Alabama. She has been working in the outpatient/school setting for 2 ½ years, treating children from 6 months to 16 years with a wide range of diagnoses including Autism, Down Syndrome, CP, sensory processing disorder, Williams Syndrome, developmental delay. and many more. She enjoys helping children engage in self care activities more independently, and interact with their peers through play on an age appropriate level. Her clinic, Sumlar Therapy Services offers outpatient OT, PT and Speech, as well as aquatic therapy and hippotherapy, which has provided her with a unique approach in her daily therapy sessions. Mary Kate is a wife to John David, and a dog mom to Poppy and Woody, her two furry sidekicks! She loves to cook, travel, and is learning to enjoy exercise (who would've thought?!).

Instagram: @MK_Galloway

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