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BASED IN Stirling, Scotland

Francesca Smart

QUALIFIED IN October 2018

Francesca came across the term ‘occupational therapy’ when she was studying for a BSc (Hons) in Psychology. Before her final year, she completed a six-week psychology placement in Sri Lanka’s national mental health hospital and some local orphanages.

My experience in Sri Lanka confirmed to me that I wanted to work with people, but I didn’t know in which role exactly. Then an occupational therapist came to speak to my mum about some adaptations to her house – she has cerebral palsy – and I was intrigued.

“Having been a carer for my mum my whole life, I loved the idea of adaptations that would help her live her best life. I asked the occupational therapist what felt like a million questions and it clicked – this would suit me as a career.”

I spent some time shadowing occupational therapists before being accepted on a two-year MSc degree course in occupational therapy. I was really pleased that I could qualify in just two years.

I’m currently working with children and adults with learning disabilities in a third-sector organisation, supporting them and their parents to achieve their goals through play.

“It’s a joy to be in a setting where someone is excited to engage. I love that I can support people to achieve their goals and become more independent while making it fun and silly to promote engagement. I spend a lot of my day laughing and talking about the different characters we create!”

COVID has made things more difficult, but one of the things I enjoy about this job is the problem-solving element. One of the children I work with has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which affects communication and behaviour, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which can cause above-normal levels of hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Because he was shielding, he was no longer able to participate in one-to-one therapeutic play. So we made sure he had inclusive play equipment, an iPad and access to a Calm app to use at home.

His family told us we’ve been a significant support to them, reduced their anxiety and enabled them to engage in lots of family play and interactions. It’s great to be able to make a difference to the lives of whole families.


Discover more about day-to-day life as an occupational therapist