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Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Based on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand, Jamie Blank founded SPOT in response to a growing need for occupational therapy for children and families facing additional challenges in their daily lives. Her focus is on empowering parents, helping children with daily life skills and supporting families in the local community. With an end goal of helping children and their families live better lives, Jamie offers a range of services, including parent support and educational programs to help children and their families thrive.

The passion: What inspired you to set up your business? Beginnings.

My passion is using my practice as an occupational therapist to help children and families who are facing challenges in daily life – mainly focused on childhood mental health challenges: autism, anxiety, sensory regulation, and trauma. Occupational therapy is all about helping people do the things they need and want to do in everyday life. For children, this is playing, learning, adjusting to different environments, and developing physical and social skills.

Sensory Pathways Occupational Therapy (SPOT) became a formalised business in 2018. My business grew out of the immense need for access to pediatric occupational therapy in my local community, Kapiti Coast, New Zealand. During my time working in public health, my heart broke for families who didn’t qualify for services. I realised there was a group of children who were essentially falling through the cracks. They had some significant challenges but no great way to access occupational therapy services.

Many of the children I work with have invisible needs e.g. sensory sensitivities or anxiety that others might not see straight away. These challenges for some children can make daily life, especially in family or school, much more difficult. The end goal is helping children and families live better lives. For example, a parent of a child with sensory sensitivities wants their child to enjoy a family BBQ without their child being overwhelmed and anxious. Or another parent wants their child with social difficulties to be able to successfully attend a birthday party. So I provide tangible realistic solutions by providing access to my knowledge as an occupational therapist in a way that is relevant to the child’s and family’s needs.

I take a very holistic approach to occupational therapy where I try to understand all the different factors influencing the child. Things like routine, environment, and ways of communicating. The goal is to honor the parent as the expert and empower them to help their child.

The Innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you in your business?

The big turning point in my business was moving away from the brick and mortar clinic and into family-based community work. I love working with children in their homes! It’s powerful because the home is the real environment, especially when working with children and their families.

This model really helps me focus on the entire family. Because we are seeing that working with the parents is so much more beneficial than a 1-hour session focused solely on the child.

We work on things like co-regulation – meaning that when a parent feels calmer, they are better able to help their child become calm. I also focus on making changes to the daily routine to help a child navigate the day with better control. It’s harder to work on skills for the whole family in the clinic setting, so moving into the home has made such a wonderful difference.

I think this whole year of 2020 has accelerated innovation and breakthroughs. I’ve been re-evaluating how I connect with families and was basically forced to try some new things. I changed my accessibility and communication with families – offering more options by phone and email. It’s been exciting to see these options provide access and value.

Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?

Outside of meeting the need for OT services in my community, my deep commitment to my family was one of the reasons I jumped into building my own business. I have a young family and wanted to be flexible to meet their needs. Being my own boss has given me the opportunity to maintain a more part-time model while extending my reach. This has led me to explore other options for offering online services as a way to have more impact without having to sacrifice all my time.

Working in my business and navigating COVID with my family has reaffirmed the value of taking care of myself. Occupational therapy itself offers a powerful framework for living a balanced life and understanding how different parts of life are connected. For me, work and family are quite interconnected. Taking care of the different elements of myself – my mind, my work, and my family – helps me to show up better in the other areas.

It’s important to prioritise walks, time in nature, and self-care in order to ultimately help me be more present to my kids and husband. And really, my work is joyful for me. It just flows and feels positive.

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