Tyson Klaassen-Smith

S02E02 OTFC’s Bigger Brother: Ten years of Tyson Klaassen-Smith


Michael chats with one of OTFC’s most loved, and longest serving OT’s – Tyson Klaassen-Smith. The conversation covers all things OT, Sensory Integration, values, play, family life and who you’d choose to save you if you were trapped in a lift?!

This year marks Tyson Klaassen-Smith’s 10th year at OTFC and we couldn’t help but take up the opportunity to chat to one of OTFC’s most loved, and longest serving OT’s. Father, amateur carpenter and mentor to many – Tyson has been such an important part of OTFC for many years.  Loved by his families and staff alike, Tyson embodies the values of OTFC and OT in general. 

Michael and Tyson chat talk about all things OT, Sensory Integration, values, play, family life and who you’d choose to save you if you were trapped in a lift?!

If you like what you have heard, follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

Michael: Hello and welcome to the integration station. Your go-to pediatric occupational therapy podcast run by the OT F C group. The integration station strives to support and empower parents, caregivers, and therapists involved with the new divergent community and connect listeners from around the. To explore and celebrate the role of Ayres’ sensory integration and occupational therapy.

Dino, and I will be joining guests to discuss a bit about their professional and personal life, share stories and engage in conversations to provide an insight into the people we are fortunate to meet everyday. 

While Dino is not with us today, he will certainly be joining us for future podcasts. However, we thought we’d return to our roots and have a chat with one of O TFCs most loved and longest serving OTs, Tyson Klaassen- Smith. This year marks Tyson’s 10th year at O TFC father, amateur carpenter, and mentor to many Tyson has been such an important part of OT F C for many.

From the three rooms at Waymouth to the three sites across Adelaide Tyson has been through it all loved by his families and staff alike. Tyson embodies the values of O T F C and OT in general. I’m glad we finally convinced him to talk so everyone else can get to love Tyson. Tyson. Thank you for coming in.

Tyson: Thank you. That was a wonderful introduction. I hope I can try and live up to that one.

Michael: Oh, look, I spent a bit of time putting that together, so hopefully you know if, if you want to, I can give you a transcript of it and you can have a read back of it later. It’s just a, it’s just a snippet of achievements.

Tyson: That sounds wonderful.

Michael: Okay we thought the best way to find out a bit more about Tyson was to have a chat, get to know a bit about background. History school, why O T? What shaped you to become the person you are today and what got you into OT in the first place? Also, can I just clarify, pronunciation is Tyson Klaassen- Smith.

Tyson: It is Tyson Klaassen- Smith, two A’s and two SS. And I’ll spell it till I die.

Michael: Do you get lots of spelling errors or strange? What’s the strangest one.

Tyson: Probably the most frequent would be like Clarkson, Clarkson. Yeah. Which I think is like a, a pretty popular like glass company. So, I mean, I look forward to the sweet, sweet coin, rolling.

Michael: I, I would say also there links to Jeremy Clarkson. So yeah,

Tyson: We might avoid that. Yeah. Indulge that controversy.

Michael: Yes. Maybe we won’t mention about him again, but but no, in all seriousness you have, yeah. Been here for quite a while, but for those who who know you, they might have a bit of insight into this, but for those that don’t Give us a bit of a, a background and, and what makes Tyson, Tyson

Tyson: born and raised in the Northern suburbs. I went to Salisbury Down’s primary school then Salisbury high school. There wasn’t a strong push at that time in regards to sort of looking at tertiary education. So I had an opportunity to, I suppose, take a bit more investigative role in that regard ‘casue they didn’t really have the supports in place to make those decisions.

So we were left with the wonderful book of different careers that you could choose in year 12 and had to have a read through of all those. And OT sounded like it was probably gonna be a good one. And I suppose it was just a role of the dice. Really. I didn’t have any particular experience with it apart from when I think 18 months old. My mum and dad took me to an OT at the women’s and children’s hospital, ‘casue I wasn’t walking and their reflection on it was that it was quite a, a simple process of the OT, convinced them to put stickers a wall or upper glass door. And I had to try and pull the stand to reach them.

So it was a pretty simple solution to get me moving about. But yeah, ultimately it was just trying to find a field that I would want to help people and, and make a difference. And I felt like the allied health field in general, whether it be speech, physio, OT was gonna be where I was gonna end up.

I liked the fact that OT had a pretty broad range as far as age and intervention methods. And I think that was something that appealed to me. which I think yeah. Helped me make the decision to go down the OT road. I didn’t really know what I was doing until I started and luckily stumbled across a career that’s pretty awesome. Mm-hmm.

Michael: Interesting. So in terms of working with, with children then, so that’s, that’s getting into OT in terms of working with children. Was that something that when you were studying that there was an interest there or had you always had a, a preference to working with kids?

Tyson: Yeah. I had a lot of second cousins, so pretty much every family gathering I was in charge of. Crowd control and entertainment, the the free family clown. But for me, I always found that yeah, I got along better with kids and adults. Anyway, I found it difficult to engage in long-winded conversations about whether in politics and enjoyed playing hide and seek and tag a lot more. So maybe that reflects more on my social skills, but. It certainly set me up for a a career in pediatrics.

Michael: I know, certainly when I’ve talked to Dino, he has made that comment as well about, he finds it easier to engage with children than adults at times. And you know, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I dunno, but I certainly certainly can reflect and, and share that experience with yourself as well. So okay. When you left uni, did you feel as though you left with a sense that you had an idea of what it would be like to work with with children or working in pediatrics?

Tyson: I was very lucky in fourth year to have a placement with three different supervisors across both community based and school based settings. And one of those was with Kevin Stephenson who used to work at O T F C and very, very experienced SI therapist. And for me, I think that was sort of the time at which I felt the most capable and the most successful in what I was doing. But also it, I suppose it, it brought the most opportunities for sort of flexibility and playfulness, which was obviously significantly easier to engage, especially much more anxious and and challenge clients at that time.

Michael: So, so, and Kevin, myself as well, having had a placement experience with Kevin, almost a, a convert, sorry, I should say to, to Sensory integration. Someone who came to OT from a completely different field but was so taken by the teachings of SI and the theory and practice, and certainly imparted that on yourself and I, I know myself hence while we’re both here. Yeah. Was that your first introduction to SI and, and was that what sold you? Was it how he did it or was it the, the, the way that SI is, and, and the theory and practice of SI.

Tyson: I think both, he was definitely a very infectious personality. His passion was just absolutely unmatched as far as making SI I don’t know, a really positive and engaging therapy style. I found that

Michael: it wasn’t his Northern english Newcastle the accent at all.

Tyson: The accent’s always gonna get us over the line. His, his neuro knowledge was absolutely astounding. I remember many times being sort of stuck having absolutely no idea to answers, to questions that I felt like I should, but he was very patient kind and supportive in that regard. But yeah, I, I think ultimately that being the, the first time that I had any idea of what sensory integration was, and then sort of over the nine week placement feeling a lot more sort of secure and comfortable within that and seeing quite effective progress over that time, even with some of the clients that I had.

Michael: So what, what is it that makes SI effective for you? How have you felt that it has matched the way that you like to treat?

Tyson: I think for me, it’s the, I suppose the flexibility and the motivation. It provides an opportunity for us to enter into a, a therapeutic relationship with children at whatever level they’re at, whether they’re exceptionally capable and we’re supporting something as simple as sort of sensory regulation all the way to the point of where they might have severe gravitational insecurity and we’re trying to support them over a long period of time to achieve something what others might seem is quite simple.

But the actual sort of method is, is so flexible and so customizable to each client that I. It just makes sense that it works. It’s, it’s something that is fun and engaging. So automatically you’ve got a, a sales pitch to, I suppose, help convince children to do something that they maybe don’t feel overly comfortable with and, and just the, the joy of, I suppose, As we’ve learned in many trainings, bringing the art and the science together to try and use something creative, like a play theme, and then somehow manage to intertwine it elegantly with something like supporting postural control and balance. But in a way that it just doesn’t seem like they’re doing therapy.

It just seems like they’re playing and, and seeing it done by people that are far more experienced than myself. It’s just amazing to watch. The, the fluidity in sessions and the, the absolute flow that, that they experience. It’s, it’s a marveled watch.

Michael: The, the thing I’d say about in, in Australia in particular is that I know you know, prior to Dino, Veronica was quite a strong advocate of SI and, and Dino has really I guess, carried that, that flag and has, has made SI particularly in Adelaide what it is . What I would ask is with, with the lack of awareness or increasing awareness, but the lack of awareness and that history do you see SI therapy has changed over time. Do you, do you feel in your time working as an OT, that there’s, there’s been a greater awareness or a greater understanding of its its theory, its practice and, and I guess being justified as an effective treatment strategy.

Tyson: I, I do feel like it’s being accepted more widely. I think my concern is definitely while more people are engaging in SI making sure that we maintain the same level of quality and rigor in how we go about How we go about delivering this is a service because ultimately anyone can badge that they’re doing something sensory based but trying to make sure that everyone is receiving the same high level of training and support from experienced therapists and that we’re able to deliver something that deserves the deserves the rigor and, and, and the success that we’re seeing in a lot of the, the trials that I’ll be doing.

Michael: I know we have talked in the past I guess the OT field and, and the OT field itself as quite a collaborative, quite a supportive profession. But I also know that we have had discussions around sensory based or sensory strategies or what sensory is. And a lot of, a lot of OTs saying they are doing sensory strategies. And then when you have a look at it it. Oh, I guess what we consider a, a, a ‘lite’ version of what sensory integration is, how do you have that conversation with other OTs, but also ensure that it doesn’t impact the profession.

Tyson: I suppose. I mean, for, for me in my head, it comes across as a bit of a marketing problem, really, to try and make sure that ultimately the, the product, I suppose, quotations that we are, that we are sort of as pitching as something that we think is worthwhile is something that has a differentiation from something as simple as like a, just a completing a sensory profile versus what we are doing. We’re providing a comprehensive assessment combination with interviews, with parents and observations with children in sessions.

And like, it’s something that you need to be quite comprehensive with. But I think we also need to take ownership over it and make sure that if people are claiming to do something sensory related, that they’re also very clear about what they’re providing. Because. Otherwise, it might muddy the waters and it could definitely change others’ opinions of what is sensory integration.

I mean, whether they be in the field or external to the field, like obviously our interactions with all other allied health professions and teachers and parents alike. If, if their only experience with sensory based therapy is something that doesn’t represent ASI in its truest form, then maybe that might skew their opinions as to what SI can provide.

Michael: So turning back to some other personal things. I mean, I know we’ve talked a bit about OT, but, but for you personally, you know, what are some, what are some core values you have? What are, what are those values that. You hold onto and, and how have they shaped your life and how you go about things?

Tyson: I think probably the most relevant and prevalent in my, in my experience in work, especially is sort of caring for others and, and doing my best to help other people.

I think having the opportunity to be alongside our clients and families and be sort of led into their lives in such a personal way is quite humbling. And being quite respectful of the fact that we are in a very, I don’t know, a very special place to be able to support them, but also have them trust us enough to tell us things that are very personal and, and, and often very challenging.

I don’t know, it, it fills me with a large sense of gratitude, but also a pretty strong responsibility to be able to take that role seriously and do everything I can to help. I think having a very strong base around sort of family and what family means and how it is not always a simple thing, family can be complex, it can be challenging.

And I think seeing all the, the different ways of doing family with all the clients that I’ve worked with, for me, sort of highlights while it’s an everlasting bond, it can be actually quite complex and quite challenging. But for me personally, I’m very lucky in this fact that I’m very well supported.

I have a loving wife and a beautiful son, and my parents are very much involved in my life also. So for me, it’s It’s a, it’s a big, big source of gratitude and support for which I’m very very lucky to have.

Michael: In terms of that, I guess, I, I know at times I often look for perspective to keep me grounded and often it comes from, you know, stories about. Challenging times a family are having what what’s is it that, that’s your perspective? What gives you perspective in, in your life? I

Tyson: think, I think definitely, I think sort of a lot of the times like I I’ll come home after work and, and maybe my son sort of. Having some challenges, engaging with simple bedtime routines. And I, and I suppose in that context, external to having that input, I would become sort of quite irritable and quite frustrated but having the opportunity to work with people who would be delighted if that was the only challenge in their day, it sort of, I suppose gives us a really good opportunity to go, you know what?

This is tricky. It’s not hard. It’s not taking away from that. But going, it could be a lot harder. And it could be a lot more challenging and sort of going, yeah. Okay. It, it gives you that opportunity to, I suppose, stop and think and go isn’t that bad. No, it’s not really like, I, it stops you from biting and, and gives you that opportunity to have a little perspective and a little bit more patience, which I’m horrendously grateful for, because I think my parenting experience would be a lot challenging without that.

Michael: Yeah. As a parent yourself, as you mentioned how do you manage to keep energized? How do you, how do you continue to work with those? As you mentioned, you come home and you’ve got your son, how do you keep that energy and balancing work Whil also keeping a space for your, for your family? What, what things do you put in place?

Tyson: I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to live a pretty low cost lifestyle. So this hard with a child. Yeah. It’s gonna get more expensive. I’m sure. But this gives me the opportunity to work three day week, which was a difficult decision to make, because obviously it restricts my opportunities to be able to engage with clients, but it also allows me time to be with my family, but also the energy to be able to maintain my.

Sort of passion and my persistence within a job that can sometimes be quite taxing. So yeah, for me, I think that’s probably the, one of the key drivers. The other is obviously just really enjoying and valuing the time that I have with my family and sort of having many. I suppose challenging moments in life that give you pretty decent perspective of how short life can be and sort of making sure that I’m valuing that time as much as I can in between watching something on Netflix or, yeah.

Michael: well, that’s the other thing, isn’t it? Is this trying to, when you talk about that, that balance, you mentioned a bit about, you know things that you do to keep you to fill your cup for one of a better term. You have a few hobbies. In particular, your woodwork. Can you tell us a bit about those and how they help you actually switch off from work?

Tyson: I think the biggest thing that I gained from something like woodwork is the, probably the immediacy and, and, and response of something quite quite proximal. It’s something that you can put hours into and you get sort of a very direct and specific response. And I think that can sometimes be something that’s difficult in the job role that we do when we’re working with clients for, for years at a time to make to make progress.

And that can be again very rewarding, but it can also be challenging because. You you’re playing the long game whereas something like woodwork, I can sort of enter my delightful Zen space of, I mean, in no way, actually having any skill persistent, persistent

Michael: don’t underrate yourself, mate. I’ve seen some of your stuff it’s pretty good.

Tyson: Thank you, persistently hammer in a way. It’s something until you until you have success. Which I think is nice and sort of, I suppose, brings a different level of creativity than what we do within our day. It’s sort of a, a slower pace. Chin scratching and trying to figure out how we’re gonna achieve success with something often within a pretty restrictive budget.

Which I enjoy too. But yeah, I, I think it’s sort of, it, it’s the contrast. It’s the contrast from, from the workplace. It’s something that moves at a much slower pace. But also the the repercussions are far, far less yeah. I make a mistake. It’s only me. That’s gonna see the mistake ‘casue nobody else seems to notice them but yeah, it’s very enjoyable.

Michael: So what is the biggest challenge for you as a clinician?

Tyson: I think knowing, knowing whether I’m ever enough, knowing that I’m doing enough, knowing that I have enough skills, I think it’s an intrinsic drive to push ourselves and to continue to be better and learn more and train and challenge ourselves.

But I suppose knowing that. Inherently OT seems to continually draw out the perfectionist within the community. We, we always seem to have a delightful capacity to focus on the one thing that didn’t go well in a day and maybe spend less time focusing on the 10 things that were pretty awesome. And I think again, while it’s a fantastic driver, it can be quite challenging to I don’t know, take the, take the intrinsic joy from something like a lot of the time, if something bad happens, we’ll blame ourselves. But if something good happens, we’re very quick to offload the positive and go, oh yeah. But that, well, that was, the teacher did a fantastic job there in helping managing their regulation.

And maybe that was because the psychologist recommended this and, and very likely they’re all a hundred percent related and that’s the case. But I think Yeah, just trying to, trying to find the balance of celebrating the wins and knowing that we’re doing enough while also balancing that with extending ourselves and continuing to grow.

Michael: So we talked a little bit about therapy in general. One thing I would say is. The impact of COVID now that’s pretty topical; over the past two and a half years, has your view of the way you deliver therapy changed? And, and what impact has COVID had not just on you as, as a therapist, but also say on, on your family and your work and, and life balance?

Tyson: I think for me early on, it was probably one of the first times that I felt really quite anxious about what therapy was going to look like. It was the first time that we’d really had to consider an alternative way of delivering what we do. And sort of early on that looked like teletherapy and for all the families that stuck through us with that I’m very grateful because.

I suppose for us at that point, we’d never really done that we’d never really had to. And it wasn’t something that we were ever forced to explore. I think as an adjunct to what we do, it was quite effective, but it was definitely not. The standard of which we held ourselves to within clinic based therapy, it was, it was, it was a different, a different way of doing, and it was restricted in many ways by what it could provide.

Michael: Can you remember ‘casue I can, can you remember how you felt that that meeting you know, the meeting we’re talking about where we were told that this is, this is how we are going to proceed forward. With therapy and positively in the fact that we’re able to provide families a service, but can you remember how you were feeling at that time?

Tyson: I, I think it was, it was quite quite a lot of shock, quite a lot of feeling quite numb. I, I think objectively now exceptionally grateful that we had a very strong leadership team in being able to take charge in what that looked like, because I think if it was left to me, I would’ve been the guy sitting in the corner, freaking out, rocking back and forth quite a while.

And I, I, I don’t doubt that there were moments for many of many of our management team that that might have been the case. But luckily by, by the point that it was delivered to us, there was a pretty clear way of sort of making those changes and delivering, delivering that service. And I, I definitely a skill that improved over time.

As with anything, the more you do it, the better you get and the, I suppose, larger repertoire of activities that we developed that were appropriate to be delivered through video based sessions. But I think it. I suppose for me, I really, I was very appreciative of the patients that a lot of our families and clients had for that situation. Like obviously we’ve got a very varied clientele and, and they have significantly different goals to each other. And so at the time, They were still willing to engage in therapy in something that looked a lot different and maybe wasn’t as successful. But they were still willing to give it a go, which I suppose for us both from a sort of financial security perspective for me as a therapist and for the business, but also just from, from trusting us to letting us into their home.

I mean, I, I, I think it would’ve been quite confronting for many to be able to go, yes, this is a, this is my lounge room, or this is my backyard. And, and, and what can we do within this space? And, and I suppose relying a lot on parents or grandparents or whoever was there to help deliver that. So for something that would be quite simple for us explaining to a parent, okay, well, this is, this is what I want you to do. I want you to move this couch over to this direction, and I want you to grab this ball and, and, and those kinds of things like the, the patience that we received from so many families in that process was, was very humbling because I mean, it was a crazy time for everyone not just us and like there were people having to keep their kids home from school and it, it was, it was an uncertainty and it was something that I think brought a lot of anxiety. So I think for me, It reintroduced a new baseline of I suppose adaptability.

But then it also meant, so if like earlier this year we had to wear full PPE; the gown, the gloves, the the mask and everything. It was annoying and it was sweaty. But it meant that we were able to come back in. We were able to do in clinic therapy. And if it meant that I had to wear a plastic bag, that made squeaky sounds when I walked around and I had to bring four changes, ‘casue I was sweating like a pig then that was what I was more than willing to do to get back to, to really getting into the nitty gritty of what we were doing.

So yeah, I think definitely. Definitely challenging. I, I don’t think I’d wanna rush back to doing it, but I did. It has also meant that it is another option and another option that we can provide to families. And if there are moments where people can’t make it in or ‘casue they’re unwell or ’cause they’re isolating, we can provide that service.

And that’s something that we weren’t able to do before because we hadn’t had to explore that. So it’s like silver lining in an otherwise unpleasant experience.

Michael: What I’m hearing is you’re reflecting back on it, going. Gee, that was hard at the time, but I am so grateful to be able to one, have still work two, be able to provide therapy and, and have some more tools in my kit now to provide therapy for families yeah. And that’s, I guess the, the, the gold at the end of it is that you are able to build those skills.

Tyson: So, yeah. And, and I think, again, continually reflecting on the fact that at the time, when all that change was happening, the, the effort and the adaptability of sort of management at that time. I, I cannot imagine the after hours meetings and effort behind the scenes to be able to, to make that happen.

I have the, the the pleasure of seeing elements of the other side, because my wife manages a business and the amount of stress that she was going through at that time, fulfilling that role gave me insight into the fact that there is so much that goes on behind the scenes. I suppose adapt to something as significant as that.

And while it’s not something that you see it is something that happens and it is people making that happen. And I suppose for us on the, on the ground floor, just sort of being. Quite grateful for, for that occurring, because without that we would be the ones having to make those decisions and we would be the ones having to, having to make that happen.

And while it is something that might have been possible, it would’ve definitely pushed us a lot further emotionally and in our, in our mental health. So yeah, very, very grateful to be a part of a, a strong organization at that time.

Michael: We’re talking a bit about SI therapy and its theory and practice and its role at the moment, where do you see the future of SI therapy? And for a space like OTFC plus for those that don’t know is for teenagers, young adults, and I guess a bit more of a hybrid of what SI therapy and more functional skills can provide. Where, where do you see SI therapy moving forward and, and for a place like, plus, do you see that. That model being applied and, and rolled out it in, in the future?

Tyson: I’m very hopeful for the future of SI. We’re very lucky to be working at a time where there is pretty strong leadership. Again, coming mostly from the US, but, but still plenty of presentation here in Australia. And having, having those people with the drive to be able to put in horrendous amounts of hours to make our main intervention approach, something that is respected not only within OT, but, but within the allied health community overall, I think gives us more confidence in the tools that we use. But it also provides opportunities for future training in regards to assessments in regards to therapeutic intervention.

Which is only gonna make us better as therapists. I think having the opportunity to work within the plus space gives us context in the understanding that while ASI is an excellent approach, it isn’t the only approach and trying to unpack. I suppose when it is a useful tool and maybe when we need to then start looking at maybe some more traditional methods around skill development especially in regards to functional tasks, like self care.

And I think it’s sort of to get stuck in one framework would I think be detrimental to the progress that our clients sort of make in that regard. So yeah, I think always, always knowing that we are OTs first and ASI based therapist second, and that there are many other frameworks that we can use that can be helpful.

And sort of, while it is something that we’re known for, we can just as quickly go up to the kitchen and try and support somebody to make a simple meal. As we would go out into the plus park and have a fantastic time swinging on the hammock swing to build their postural control. And

Michael: As we’ve mentioned, a number of times you have been an OT here for, for 10 years. Does it feel like 10 years?

Tyson: No, not, not really. I think some days it feels like it’s been much, much longer just because so much has changed. And then other days it feels much, much less. Like when I think about sort of clients that I’ve seen for such a long time, I still remember them as the three year old coming into OT at way mouth and now they’re a 13 year old at at plus, and I, I think. It definitely. It just varies on the day.

Michael: Do you reflect much on that? Do you reflect much on the clients that you have seen from the start and, and when you were talking before about, you know, those, sometimes it’s hard to see that, that, that progress, but over a longer journey with some of these clients, do, do you reflect back on maybe the impact that you’ve had on them or the role you’ve had?

Tyson: I think probably less on the impact and probably more on the change, I think especially as you see somebody grow from, from a young child to a young adult and you start to sort of see, I dunno, those milestones in life, like, like talking to people about.

The sort of possibility of going for a driver’s license or looking at plans for post-school options and thinking, this is a person that I’ve seen since before they’ve started school. And, and it’s just a crazy concept to have been given the opportunity to sort of walk alongside this family in the, in this client for, for 10 years. It’s, it’s, it’s been a pretty amazing ride. And I think probably not many other sort of job roles where you would have that opportunity to exist with somebody for such a long period of time. And I, and I think again, just sort of the really, really nice opportunity for, I suppose, gratefulness and being able to be involved in that and have such a, a personal connection to their lives. And, and just not taking that for granted at any point and, and sort of, yeah, being really humbled by, by that opportunity, because we, we know so much about what’s happened in their life and the challenges they’ve faced and we’ve been there for the tears and we’ve been there for the joys.

And I, I don’t know, it just feels like an extended family really.

Michael: Are there any particular memories. That you have or events that, you know, have, have kept you motivated to work here or shaped you or, or even kept you hopeful for the future? Because we, you know, we, we do see a lot of really challenging situations, but, you know, hope keeps us going, I think at times. And, and that hope that the, the impact that we can make is, is that difference to that family or that to the individual? Are there any stories or particular moments that, that you reflect on? ,

Tyson: I don’t think sort of specific situations come to mind, but I think probably probably just the continued opportunity to be pleasantly surprised. I dunno whether that reflects on me being quite a pessimistic soul, but I think the opportunity to be able to continually provide opportunities for clients, to be able to try something new and then have that wonderful opportunity where it actually goes quite okay.

Or when they sort of yeah, try a new occupation, even something as simple as like working at shoelaces for 3, 4, 5 years, and then finally getting in and then reaching a point where it’s just a normal thing for them to be able to just tie their shoelaces. But knowing that it took so much time and so much effort and there’s something that so many people would take for granted, but for them is something they had to work so hard to achieve and often not of their own volition.

But then becomes just another skill that they have, and it will retain for the rest of their lives is, is quite amazing. Yeah.

Michael: What, what’s your answer, I guess, to the question of as an OT, what, what, what is an OT to you?

Tyson: I find it sort of, if, if we’re in context within the therapy space, I think it’s, it’s a much easier conversation to have maybe more, so linking it to sort of, I suppose, the occupation that we’re doing. So we’re using, we’re using play to elicit an adaptive response to be able to achieve sort of progress towards agreed upon goals.

It’s, it’s something, I suppose, that for a lot of people can be quite. Complex, but, but ultimately when it, when it’s boiled down, it’s quite a simple process. As far as explanation goes, but I find it like out in the wild, it is a much more challenging concept. Because I think with the delight of OT, it’s so varied. But the challenge is that because of that, it is so hard to explain. Like obviously we can work with people from birth to death, with anything from sort of anything from a specific, as a hand therapist, all the way up to sort of discharge, planning on ward and anything in between.

And so I think because of that, it does make it exceptionally challenging. So I find a lot of the time, my explanation is not OT in general, but simply more a focus on what I do specifically in working with children and supporting them to have success towards goals in social realms, physical realms self care and emotional regulation.

So yeah, I think once, once it’s boiled down to the, the doing bit, or I suppose the motivation and the goal focused, then it can sometimes be a lot easier to, to get. But also, I mean, you pick your audience, you get some random that you, that asked you that obviously looks bored two minutes in, you know, yeah I just, I help kids. Cool. Okay. Versus somebody who might be a little bit more invested.

Michael: And that’s interesting though, because I think I, I would see that also as an opportunity to go well, I wanna say I’m an OT and this is what I do. And, and I’ll explain to you, and it helps that education. But I think at times you can go into that default of I work with kids, you’re not that interested. You know, I, maybe I won’t explain. The other thing I’d say on that is play.

So I do at times find that that some parents who may not have been exposed to lots of different types of play or play in its importance in development, when they see our therapy. Dino’s mentioned this as well they look like they’re playing and Dino’s response would be thank you. That is exactly what we’re doing. That’s, that’s what we’re, that’s what our therapy’s supposed to look like. So if we’re doing it, we’re doing our job. What, what are your thoughts about play and, and, and the, the role of play and not just for children, but play as adults as well.

Tyson: I, I, I think ultimately as you’ve hit the nail on the head, like if it doesn’t look fun, then, I mean, it’s not that we are not having success, but. It should be fun. It should be motivating. And the, and the reason for that is simply because of that motivation. Once, once they are motivated, they’re much more likely to persist with a task there’s much more enjoyment and engagement, and then suddenly they’ve experienced flow and they’re not, you’re not pushing ’em through 10 more reps of something you’re going, oh, let’s, let’s try and get 10 more of the treasures down to the castle before we get attacked by the scary dragon.

And suddenly it becomes something much more much more than simply working on those components that we know that we’re supporting and that’s the whole reason we’re there. But the context itself creates so much more opportunity for growth and engagement.

Michael: I often go back to, and we’ve got it all around a lot of our sites is, is that quote from do Dr. Karen Purvis, which is. She mentions that scientists recently determined it takes 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain, unless it’s done with play in which it can take between 10 to 20 repetitions. And I think that in itself gives you an indication of how important play is.

Tyson: well to be able to have scientific backing to say that it is so, so powerful and effective, I suppose, gives us a pretty good response to those that maybe believe that it isn’t a very powerful tool.

Michael: So on play then what does play look like for you? I guess what role does it have and how important is it?

Tyson: I, I have the the current joy of having a, a six year old son. So every, every weekend is lots of play, lots of play, lots of, lots of basketball, lots of bike rides, lots of playgrounds. And I, I think. At the moment, I dunno, which one of us is more motivated to do that? Probably, probably still him, but I, I feel like we’re probably quickly more quickly than I want to get ahead to head in the other direction.

But for the time being, it’s, it’s a wonderful opportunity to engage in sort of play space playgrounds and continue to. Engage in activities that are intrinsically enjoyable, like in, in the right context with the right social permissions. If I went to a playground by myself without a child, boy, it would not look so good.

But the joys of bringing a child along is suddenly it’s socially appropriate for me to act like an absolute clown on a playground. I think. Probably one of the most joyful ideas is the fact that as therapists, if you left us alone in one of the therapy spaces, we’d probably just play even if we didn’t have kids around. And I think that reflection on something that is often quite quite less prevalent in, in adults. Like we don’t have as many socially appropriate opportunities to engage in play and playful, playful behavior. And I think often I probably see it more in sport mm. Between teams like, like within teams and things, but I suppose there’s just, there’s less opportunities to do so.

But it can be such a wonderful bonding experience with people. And just a, a really nice opportunity to engage with.

Michael: I think the other thing that I have that I have found through the years for play, is, it is there, it doesn’t, it doesn’t go away. What it looks like changes. And some people may not realize what they’re actually engaging in as an adult is play.

So you think of, you know, number of adults that play video games or board games, or are involved in, you know, fantasy football or whatever it is, that’s essentially play. And it just changes as the person matures and interests change. But I think you’re right. When you’re working with, with children and you know, when you’re with your son that play is powerful and it, it is part of that intrinsic motivation. You know, I am doing something that I enjoy. I’m sharing that experience with someone else and that’s forming positive connections and relationships and you know, forms very much a part of our, our therapy.

So if I get into a therapy room, I am 100% stuffing around on equipment testing things out and that’s probably why we enjoy the work that we do and why we’re in the field that we are. So I think the other thing for me then is. I were asking you some questions. We’ve gone through some probably more in depth, I guess, more serious questions, but playful questions can also be quite a good way to get further understanding of someone.

And I might just throw a few your way if, if that’s okay with you, this might be the, what is the real Tyson like? Okay.

Tyson: A revealing moment.

Michael: It is. Now what I would say is that I know people might not know out there, but I know you are a big car man.

Tyson: Enjoy enjoy looking, but to not owning. Oh,

Michael: I’m I’m I’m with you yeah. I don’t think either us can afford the cars that we, we, no, we would like, but dream car, if we’re thinking of dream car, is there one in mind or is it


Tyson: No, no budget restrictions, no budget. Probably Lexus lFA. But budget, budget restrictions, probably a little sensible I 30 N. Enough, have fun under the speed limit but also fit the fit, the fit the family and all the shopping in the boot.

Michael: Favorite toy or figurine is a child?

Tyson: Linked to a somewhat emotionally tumultuous moment. I got a red power ranger and was exceptionally proud of said power Rangers. So obviously had the idea to bring it to school. Much to mum’s continued discussion as to the fact that maybe it wouldn’t be sensible to bring an exceptionally awesome toy to school. I decided to bring the awesome toy to school and surprise, surprise.

I had a sad ending and the toy disappeared. So yes, I think other than that, just lots of, lots of toy cars blocks army figurines, those kinds of. Traditional boy toys, which probably didn’t help me too much in the pretend play department.

Michael: But well, there’s plenty of pretend, play with power ranges and, and co

Tyson: Valid. They have less tea parties.

Michael: well, depends which power ranger you have.

Tyson: That is a valid, valid point.

Michael: But anyway, Hey, who, who, who says that army men with guns, can’t also share a spot of tea. The English did the English world war one. It’s a lot of that.

Tyson: Favorite board game.

Again, another tumultuous one.

Michael: There are lots of negative memories about games and figurines Tyson.

Tyson: I, I would, I would say we used to have a, I can’t remember the exact name, but it was like a, a fishing based board game.

Michael: Oh, when it spins around and you’ve got the, the magnetic…

Tyson: no, no, no, no, no, that, that does sound cool though. That’s really, I like that. No, this was, I suppose like a, I think maybe like a knockoff monopoly, but fishing based. But again, as with any family based board game, there were many, many times that maybe it brought joy and, and many times that maybe it, didn’t and, and so I suppose it goes the way of many board games you play it for a while. Everyone’s having a good time. Someone gets annoyed and then eventually it goes into the cupboard and stays .

Michael: So why we teach social skills

Tyson: Yeah your ability to be able to lose with , with some control and some dignity. I’m, I’m still working on it, but that’s we we’ll get there one day.

Michael: Favorite kids TV show and why?

Tyson: I have very, very, very fond memories of, Hey Arnold.

Michael: Oh I, you know, that, that intro is absolutely fantastic fusion jazz at its finest.

Tyson: I, I think it came at the perfect time for me as, as I suppose, the slightly rebellious different different ways of living and, and obviously the animation of music were fantastic

Michael: Nickelodeon quality of course.

Tyson: Oh, absolutely always good and, and then probably now, like you can’t go past Bluey. It is unmatched in its ability to be able to pluck at the heartstrings and make you laugh. And the, the quality and standard is, has remained. Absolutely fantastic.

Michael: I think the, the benefit of blue is. The episodes are short and I have often found myself watching it well past the fact that Felix is well and truly onto something else and I’m sitting there going to the next episode and he’s doing something else.

Tyson: I, I, I feel like as long as they’re in the room,

Michael: look as long as you’ve got an eye on them. It’s fine.

Tyson: No, no, but I just simply, from a social perspective, anyone walks in oh, this was on because my child was watching it and yeah.

Michael: Yeah. Okay. So the next one. You’re trapped in a lift and can only choose one of the following to save you. Okay. Who do you choose and why?. Here are your options MacGyver, you know, MacGyver, indiana Jones, james Bond, or just firefighters?

Like I, I understand why people would choose MacGyver, Indiana Jones and James Bond, because obviously it would create a wonderful opportunity to then lead into an action sequence explosions and possibly engagement in other activities, but I, I feel like the conservative me is winning and maybe it might end up being firefighters.

I’m, I’m concerned about the, the lack of press that my fiery death may receive and whether that would be worthwhile for the, all the sweet, sweet action. See, I, I think I’ll, I think I’ll settle on the the conservative firefighters.

So you’re thinking headline man dies in fire alongside MacGyver.

Tyson: I just don’t think I would compete and I, and I think, I mean, look, inherently MacGyver is probably gonna make it out and I’ll just be this sort of background character. And I, I don’t know. It’s, it’s not how I see myself going down.

Michael: Fair enough. Would you rather see the future or go back in time?

Tyson: I would be probably hesitant to go into the future. I think knowing what’s coming would be maybe more concerning than I wish. I, I think. If I could bring things back with me, it would be going back into the past, not anything that would change the world, but like toilet paper and I don’t know, maybe something simple in the way of medications. But yeah, I, I think that would be an interesting, I, I suppose it depends on who you end up being as well.

Like obviously social hierarchy was something much more complex and challenging at that time, but yeah, no, I’d like to avoid the future. It seems a little bit uncertain for.

Michael: Yeah, I think the future is, as you said, is scary thing. Sometimes I wanna know the future mainly. So I know, you know, am I gonna get upset at this sports result?

Yeah. Am I gonna be bothered watching it? Yeah, no, I can choose not to, you know, it’s kind of like ‘ Back to the Future’, the Almanac. Yeah. That’s ultimately. You know, making cash off knowing the results of sporting events.

Tyson: Definitely. So may, maybe like a little, little short jump,

Michael: sorry. I should have clarified that. It’s predominantly my thinking of, I want Biffs Almanac so that I can use that money to build more O TFCs

Tyson: it all makes more sense.

Michael: Just one more. So we’ve talked a lot about clinician a bit about family life, finding that balance between work and, and home. But when you are feeling down or need something familiar to cheer you up, what, what’s your comfort blanket? What is something that you go to? That just goes, ah, yep. This is exactly what I needed.

Tyson: I, I, I mean, it’s, it does sound corny, but I, I suppose just family being at home, being at home with my wife and my son and, and sort of the, the security and the consistency that they provide. I, I, we’re really lucky to have a pretty awesome team here as well. And it gives us an opportunity to debrief at the end of a pretty tricky day. Which I think is, is important because you have that context, you can. Sort of feedback about how something is quite challenging and you don’t need to explain too much for others to be able to understand.

I think external to the workplace that can be quite challenging, like obviously with any specific work role, if you’re in the job, you know, the job and you know how challenging it can be, and you can understand each other’s perspectives quite easily. And I think without that peer support, if we were in a role where we were independent OTs, maybe within a community role, I think.

This would be an exceptionally taxing occupation to engage with long term because the support that we can give each other both practically as far as therapeutic advice, but also just personally in that emotional support and coming out of a really tough situation or tough session or hearing some really tough news.

I suppose, just doing the over enthusiastic sigh or whatever we do to draw others in and then getting the, getting the support from our peers is, is something that I value greatly and something that I don’t think you could ever replace with anything other than a supportive group of people.

Michael: That’s a lovely place to end.

Thank you, Tyson. Very much enjoyed having a chat to you and also for contributing to the. Integration station.

Tyson: My pleasure, Michael, thank you very much for having me.

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