Featured Certified Autism Specialist – Paula Perkins

Paula Perkins, OTR, SCSS, MA, CAS

City/State:  Burkburnett, TX                                       

School/ Organizations: Burkburnett ISD

1) How has earning the Certified Autism Specialist been meaningful and satisfying?

My almost two decades of knowledge, experience, and student results are acknowledged and formally validated.

2) How has the CAS credential affected your professional growth?

I have been encouraged to take an even deeper dive into autism to find the best strategies for using “occupation” as a means to maximize abilities through engagement in daily, educational activities.  I am a better OT when I am more diversely equipped to meet the spectrum of needs of this growing population.

3) How has your CAS credential been a benefit to your district/ organization/ or employer?

This certification is one of many components that allow me to demonstrate my professional competence and skills, specifically in the field of autism, which is increasingly important at a time when standards of accountability mandate service providers be highly qualified.

4) How do you like to be recognized, acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done?

Words of affirmation are always good for me, but I thrive more on watching students develop and build upon independent and interdependent life skill sets.

5) What is your greatest challenge or roadblock?

While our district has great IEP teams and our students with autism are making monumental strides, I believe we could be more effective and efficient if there was more time explicitly designated for collaboration and problem solving.

6) What makes you feel like a valuable contributor?

Part of my life mission is to empower and develop the potential of others.  So, I feel valued when fellow professionals and parents begin to employ OT-related recommendations in their respective environments and eventually begin to design/adapt daily scenarios according to those premises.  With students, my efforts are valued in the form of hugs, smiles, and high-fives when they themselves realize their abilities.

7) What do you enjoy most about your job?

I have the opportunity to work with students with a gamut of abilities in various settings, which means that no two days are ever the same and that there is (almost) never a dull moment!

8) What support, tools/resources, skills or empowerment do you need to be more effective?

Many intervention practices OTs use with students with autism have empirical support, but they are not currently identified as evidence-based practices (IE, Handwriting Without Tears, Sensory Diets, Sensory Integration, etc.).  Thus, the body of research in these areas needs to be increased.  This makes it even more important for OTs to be familiar with and in the habit of employing those already outlined EBPs in our daily interactions with students with autism (http://autismpdc.fpg.unc.edu/evidence-based-practices).

There are also a limited number of school-based OTs in this region.  I would very much appreciate the occasion to join forces with other therapists, primarily as a networking entity.

9) What strengths or talents do you possess that aren’t being used?

I believe I have expertise that could be shared in trainings that encompass daily routines, sensory and self-regulation, social interaction, and executive function beyond the quick facts already shared during team interactions.

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