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A Day in the Life of an OT at CareSouth

In the early 2000’s, what is now known as the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA), put out the call in the UK for qualified Occupational Therapists (OT’s), to move to Australia and take up positions in rural/regional areas. Clare Ellerington answered the call and has not looked back! 

Clare was posted to the Shoalhaven and immersed herself in the community. Clare and her husband David are involved in the Shoalhaven Giants AFL Club, Girl Guides and many more causes – including the Stars of Nowra Dance for Cancer. Both have dedicated their careers to making a difference in the lives of people with a disability. 

While Clare worked with CPA for several years, she later worked in Government roles before being encouraged to take up a Senior Clinician position at CareSouth. 

“One of the things I value about CareSouth is the flexibility they offer around family.” 

“When my kids were young there was a time I could only work one day a week and my role did accommodate that, and more importantly allowed me to support my young family.” 

“I’ve also never had access to more training opportunities than I have at CareSouth. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from world renown experts in child trauma in Melbourne, learn DIR Floortime training and so much more.” 

Clare’s 3 decades of experience makes her an ideal clinical lead to mentor the team around her but also to take on a complex caseload. 

“The children who come to us have very complex trauma and even the adults with a disability we work with have trauma from living with a disability and experiencing social isolation.” 

“I was very hands on in the design of our purpose-built facility so that we could have a beam across the ceiling that allows for a linear yoga swing, which we know helps stimulate the vagal brake, bring the central nervous system down and assists with self-regulation restoring a feeling of calm and relaxed state.” 

While Clare enjoys the creative problem-solving aspect of her role, she also has a well-developed skill of identifying cues in behaviour, understanding the underlying challenge, and changing strategies quickly to accommodate the individual and make the sessions fun.  

“They may need to bang a musical instrument instead of gently swinging to get the movement and sound they need to regulate or use activities that promote pushing pulling and weight bearing.” Said Clare.

Others enjoy patting Woody (the clinical cavoodle care dog at CareSouth whose small stature and soft fur has won many people over).

Due to the demand for service Clare spends around 30 hours a week providing one on one support with communication, fine/gross motor skills and emotional regulation – both in person and via telehealth. With the other 10 hours dedicated to mentoring, peer supervision and reflective practice. 

While Clare says a lot of children have really stuck with her from over the years, a highlight of her career was captured on film for the assessment component of the Floortime training course. 

Clare was supporting a child who, to begin with, was crying and inconsolable before quietly sitting next to her and reading a book by the end of the 30-minute session. 

“The more traumatised someone is, the harder you often have to work to build connection safety and relationships. I find it very challenging but so very rewarding.” 

“Children who have experienced trauma need environments and opportunities to regain a sense of personal safety, competence, and pleasurable connection to others.” 

“I am proud to be an OT everyday – it’s a powerful profession.” 

“OT’s have a unique skill set that goes beyond what many might realise. The profound understanding of the sensory and motor systems, essential for non-verbal communication, sets us apart. Coupled with the therapeutic use of self, OT’s can create pathways of purposeful communication.” Clare added.

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