OT and Girl Scouts: A Great Collaboration in the Making

(LGT Girl Scouts of USA homepage)

A recent topic on an AOTA listserv made me think about how Girl Scouting and Occupational Therapy could really benefit from a partnership. This is something that I've thought mildly about myself, and taken action to enact in my own life. To give a little background, I was a 10 year girl scout from 3rd grade until I graduated high school. I went to Florida, Canada, and Mexico primarily from cookie sales and have always known that I would want to give back to a program that was very beneficial to me. Now, as an OT professional, I feel that I am in a great position to do so- and so are you. Both of these groups stand to benefit from a collaboration... here is why:
1. Gender Issues. Yes, there are male OTs and even male GS leaders, but both fields are dominated by women. Why fight it? Why not reach out to a female community to join causes? I'm not saying that we should undermine the role of men in the profession or not actively recruit men, but there is something to be said for directed advertising. Plus, a good female role model in a girl's life is virtually irreplaceable.
2. Understaffing. We know that this is a somewhat tenuous time for OT. We're looking to the Centennial Vision. We want OT to be viable in all realms, yet we wonder if there will be enough OTs to make this dream a reality and keep the collective paws of other professions off our domain. (For example, we can't claim to be the definitive experts on UE splinting if there aren't enough OTs that are proficient and practicing in splint construction) At the same time, Girl Scouting is stepping into an uncertain future. The levels are reorganizing, the badgework requirements are changing, and councils are consolidating. Leaders and general volunteers are always needed to recruit girls and help them explore a well rounded set of activities. In turn, older girls can do volunteer opportunities at hospitals or clinics, various OT sponsored events.
3. Background. In my opinion, OTs have a great general education and unique splinter skills. There are a wide variety of people attracted to OT (as anyone who has attended AOTA conference should be able to attest). This includes musicians, athletes, artists, all of whom can share their talents and help girls explore different activities and earn badges. Everyone who made it through OT school also has great organizational skills which can be applied to any meeting, badge plan, or event.
4. Promoting Development. OTs have special skills in activity analysis and grading. We go into this career to help others achieve more in their lives. We work with individuals, families, and communities to make the impossible dream a possible reality in a world more accessible for anyone and everyone. Even in a group of typically developing girls, there will always be various skill levels for different tasks, and an OT can do a great job at helping all participants discover their strengths through activities.
5. Promoting Tolerance. Not much to be said to expand this point, but OTs should be experts in inclusion. There are also ample opportunities to pass on a message of tolerance to developing kids. I think that this is an important value to pass on, and it is a main tenet of girl scouting.

To me, there are such opportunities to involving OTs and girl scouts. Though I don't have a troop right now, I have been active in my new council and will be running the cadette/senior unit of an evening camp this summer. I have posted a list of badges that OTs could be facilitators for as an OT-Advantage file, look for me as "cheryldotot." Incidentally, I've also posted by Alert Program based "engine handwriting" sheet for download there, and will try to add in different study materials that I still have floating around on my computer. What do you think about an increased involvement between OT and GS? Would it be a community involvement that you would enjoy? Should I try to make it an RA motion for next year? Speak up! Happy Thursday!

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