July 24, 2024


Don't Mess With Baby

A mother’s leadership inspires this occupational therapist

5 min read

By Louise Kinross

Rashan Edwards has worked as an occupational therapist (OT) on all of Holland Bloorview’s inpatient units and is now working with outpatients on our brain injury unit. She’d like to see better representation of Black and other racialized people in the health professions and in our hospital. “I was the only Black student in my class at OT school,” she recalls. “I’ve had a client’s mom say to me: ‘It’s so nice my daughter can come and see someone who’s in this position that looks like her.’ Representation matters.” We spoke about how she got into the field and her hopes for our new strategic plan.

BLOOM: You were at Holland Bloorview’s campfire session on equity, diversity and inclusion, where participants noted that our employee makeup is not diverse from a racial perspective.

Rashan Edwards: I really want Bloorview staff to reflect the families that we serve here. I was lucky enough when I was growing up to see my mother as a superintendent with the Toronto District School Board. I had representation. I had that vision of a Black woman in leadership. I want kids who come here to know that they can do whatever they want. I think Bloorview does an amazing job advocating for kids with disabilities, and they can do an amazing job advocating for equity, diversity and inclusion from a race perspective, too. You can’t get rid of power imbalances, but you can acknowledge them and take steps to empower clients and families to feel that their voices are being heard and their culture is represented and embraced when they come here for care.

BLOOM: How did you get into this field?

Rashan Edwards: Ever since I was a child I’ve known I wanted to work with kids. I started babysitting when I was 10 and I worked with children at summer camps. I was a dance teacher. I loved biology and the human body, so I wanted to work in the health field. My mom was the one who said ‘I think the field of OT would be great for you.’ I had no idea what it was. In university I studied biology and family and child studies, but I had no idea there was a field where I could combine child development and health care, with a little bit of research.

BLOOM: What is a typical day like?

Rashan Edwards: When I worked with inpatients I was a float that worked on all three units. It was really busy and included working with a wide variety of clients of all ages, from kids with orthopedic difficulties to those with genetic conditions. I loved being able to work with all three inpatient teams. Each team is like their own town, with their own unique flow and vibe and all are run a little differently. But they each do great work, and each kid is unique. I liked it because I like keeping busy and learning new things.

Now I’m working with outpatients with brain injury who I see for assessments and therapy. I could have a little baby I’m seeing to work on development and fine-motor skills, or I could have a teen boy who needs support with executive functioning, so I’m helping him to get the accommodations he needs at school.

BLOOM: What is most challenging?

Rashan Edwards: The things that are out of our control: medical complications, time pressures, wait lists.

BLOOM: Is there anything you do to manage stress?

Rashan Edwards: I rely on the incredible and supportive team members I have. Everyone here understands what we all work through, and what we see on a daily basis. Being able to talk out some of the challenges we face with colleagues is helpful. Perspective from their eyes allows me to take a step back and look at the big picture. Sometimes you get stuck on one thing and the amazing wisdom on our team helps you get a new perspective and try something new.

Outside of here I go to the gym. I do high-intensity training. Because you’re going hard for a short period of time, you have to really focus and be in your body. Being with my family and hanging out with my four-year-old twin nephews help as well.

BLOOM: What qualities do you need to be good in your job?

Rashan Edwards: You need to be adaptable. You can’t always go into a session with a prescribed plan, because kids are unique and constantly changing. Sometimes they’re happy and sometimes they don’t want to do therapy. You have to be flexible and change on the fly. You have to not take yourself too seriously. I have to do pretty silly things to get kids to buy in. Sometimes I’m singing The Wheels on the Bus in a British accent to get a kid to laugh and make it fun. Kids won’t do things if it’s boring. So you need to be creative. 

BLOOM: What are the greatest joys?

Rashan Edwards: There are so many. I think one is when you see kids realize that they did something they couldn’t do before. You see them being proud of themselves. Some of the changes we see here are incredible. The brain is a really miraculous piece of anatomy. We see kids who come in not able to walk or talk and they walk out of here a couple of months later and wave goodbye. We learn so much about how resilient kids are. You’ll see children who have been through so much, but they’re laughing with the clowns and smiling and cracking jokes and making new friends. When families feel supported, you can really see the power of everyone working together.

BLOOM: How do you help kids accept new disabilities?

Rashan Edwards: The beauty of my job is that we don’t look at rehab as a fixing of anything. It’s not always about getting kids back to where they were before. Part of it is teaching compensation strategies. So okay, what’s something you want to do? How can we modify it to do it in other ways, or how can we use assistive devices or other strategies?

BLOOM: If you could change one thing about children’s rehab for kids with brain injury, what would it be?

Rashan Edwards: Probably just the system, in terms of the resources we have. Unfortunately, we have long wait lists and wait times. We could do a lot more if we had more capacity and funding.

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