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Author Spotlight: Ileana S. McCaigue OTR/L

Ileana S. McCaigue, OTR/L is a nationally certified/ registered and licensed Occupational Therapist, author, program developer, holistic clinician and educator with 40 years of experience. Her professional career and expertise include a continuum of care. These range from the neonatal intensive care unit to pediatric concerns in the home, school and community for developmental delays, especially for strategy implementation to manage sensory-based problem behaviors.  Ileana has worked in a variety of pediatric settings that included over 20 years with Special Education students in public schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

She is the author of Typical Classroom Sensory-Based Problem Behaviors & Suggested Therapeutic InterventionsAutism Sleeps™, and has written a new book entitled Taming Idiopathic Toe Walking: A Treatment Guide for Parents and Therapists.  She has also created software, the Scale of Sensory Strategies (S.O.S.S.) Tool Kit™,  for data collection regarding sensory strategies.

Ileana has taken the time to participate in a Q&A session.  It is amazing to read about her experiences as an Occupational Therapist allowing her to provide a wealth of information to help children today:

Q: First tell a little bit about yourself – job experience, years on the job, etc.
I am a graduate from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia, with 40 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist. I have specialty certifications in Sensory Integration, as a past Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist and for therapeutic use of Interactive Metronome to treat processing disorders. I have served as an expert witness for several court cases involving infants and children, and am a published author in the areas of case management and life care planning, as well as energy conservation, motion economy, sleep issues for children with Autism and other Sensory Processing Disorders, interventions related to clinical and school-based pediatric practice, and most recently, on the treatment of idiopathic toe walking. I have presented inservices, seminars and workshops throughout the United States throughout my career, but since 2010, a series of seminars focused on how to develop an evidence-based sensory strategy plan to treat sensory-based problem behaviors.

I was honored at the Medical College of Georgia where I was given the Barbara S. Grant Award from the Georgia O.T. Association in October 2005 for what was stated as my dedication and lifetime of outstanding service to the field of occupational therapy. In 1977 I received the Maddak Award in the area of Physical Disability for the design of the S.K.A.T.E. (Skateboard for Kinesthetic Arm Therapeutic Exercises).
My most meaningful accomplishments include the implementation of the first Neonatal ICU Occupational Therapy program in Georgia at DeKalb Medical Center in 1979; the first Occupational Therapist to develop and implement services at Scottish Rite Childrens hospital in 1981, and the establishment of the first private practice Disabled Driver Rehabilitation program in Georgia in 1982.

In 1994 when I was a Rehab Coordinator at Northeast Georgia Center, I assisted Brenau University in the hiring of the program developer for their first O.T. program. Several years since then, I have worked alongside those graduates of which many have gotten their doctorates.

I retired from the Gwinnett County Public Schools after twenty years of service in 2015, and have returned to clinical private practice after providing services in Barrow County Schools in 2015-2016. My primary area of practice is for children with Autism and other Sensory Processing Disorders, especially sleep and sensory-based behavioral concerns. I also consult as a wellness and holistic therapist, and incorporate alternative treatments as appropriate.

I immigrated into the United States in 1957 from Havana, Cuba, and became a citizen at age 7 with my parents. I am bilingual and fluent in English as well as Spanish, my native language.

Q: What made you start to write books and create software?

My first book in 1980, “Motion Economy Manual: A Handbook for Conserving Energy”, was written for and published by Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, where I was the O.T. Coordinator at the time.  My next publication was as a contributor, writing Chapter 7 of “The Handbook of Case Management and Life Care Planning,” by Dr. Roger Weed, Ph.D. Interestingly, it was Chapter 7 on the Role of Occupational Therapy in Life Care Planning which began on page 77 and was exactly 77 pages in length!

I began a private practice on the side in 1981 as a small, home-based business that developed into a brick and mortar-based clinic with a staff of 12: 7 OTs, 1 PT, 1 SLP, 1 Driver Educator for the Disabled Driver Program, an Office Manager and myself. I sold my practice in 1988 to DeKalb Medical Center, and later began working in the school in 1995.

I did not publish my first book until 2009 when I completed the “Scale of Sensory Strategies [S.O.S.S.®] Toolkit”. This was written to validate the quantity and impact of the multitude of sensory strategies that I had been using in classrooms with children with Autism. I needed a formalized data collection tool to compare and contrast the effects of sensory strategies in order to develop an effective Sensory Strategy Plan [SSP] of action that was used by teachers to manage the sensory-based problem behaviors in the classrooms I served. This was in direct response to a parent threatening litigation because of an accusation that, “Not enough sensory strategies have been used with my child!” The first printing of an SSP was for this child that included the documentation of 72 sensory strategies of which only 11 had a positive impact on managing his severe problem behaviors. There was no argument from the parent at this point, and I knew then that I had a valuable tool that should be shared with other OTs and/or PTs in my same predicament.

My next book, Typical Classroom Sensory-Based Problem Behaviors and Suggested Therapeutic Interventions was to compliment the S.O.S.S. Toolkit for suggested strategies to use to collect data.

Autism Sleeps was written after discovering that the majority (80% or more) of students with Autism on my caseload with behavior concerns were reported to not sleep steadily more than 2-4 hours a night. It was written after overcoming my own sleep disorder, Post-Traumatic Hypersomnia, that I developed after a mild head injury from a motor vehicle accident when I was hit on my driver’s door by an oncoming vehicle traveling 85mph in a 45mph zone. The strategies that helped me, as well as others researched, were included in this book.

My latest book on Taming Idiopathic Toe Walking was published after consistent success using a tool that I had initially designed 27 years prior while in private practice that worked more effectively and efficiently than those available commercially for treating toe walkers. I called my tool, Toe Tamers™, since my philosophy is that we may appease or “calm” the need for sensory input that resolves in a problem behavior, but that need may arise at any point of stress and regress in that child or individual’s life further along in life.

So, to answer your question in a nutshell, I wrote books to teach others the therapeutic tools and strategies that I used that were effective with my patients, clients and/or students throughout the course of my years of practice!

Q: What is your top tip to therapists who work in pediatrics?

Work in all areas of pediatrics before you specialize in one area if you know you want to be a “peds OT”. If you are not sure, then work in all areas of adult and pediatrics before narrowing your practice to peds. Once you have decided on the area of peds that most interests and suits you to the point that you feel you are “at home” in that environment, then visit the same setting in many areas of the country or the world to get ideas and exchange your knowledge with them. You would be surprised at how OTs are uniform in some theories of practice, but how differently they approach to treat a similar problem.

Q: What is your best advice to someone who is thinking about writing a book or creating software?

To write a book, find something you have successfully used over time that you think would be of value to another parent, therapist or educator. Then, decide if you have a passion for sharing that tool, philosophy, treatment protocol or whatever the subject may be. Envision what that publication will do and look like, and develop an outline to begin writing, including case studies to validate your clinical expertise whenever possible. Once you have completed your basic manuscript, following your outline so others can follow your train of thought, share your manuscript with trusted individuals (respected colleagues, university-based peers, other professionals in related fields, depending on subject matter, and a professional editor) to review and help you with the accuracy of your statements and the complete editing process. See if some of those professionals will allow you to print a review of your publication to enhance your credibility. Whenever possible, offer your tool or approach for a research study on which you can consult and assist with the design of the study to add further validity to your book.

Q: Do you find it hard to juggle practicing OT and creating products at the same time?

I have done both simultaneously for so long that I simply shift focus as deadlines arise or as a new idea emerges. I always have at least 2-3 new ideas “brewing” in my head that keeps me going and interested in my work as an OT and small business owner while continuing to sell and promote my completed projects. To balance my “work”, as all “good OTs should do”, I enjoy my hobbies of photography and volunteer work. I submit prints for juried shows, while serving on the local Board for the North Gwinnett Arts Association, a non-profit organization for the promotion of arts and education, and I also serve on the Board of New Directions, a day program for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders in my local community. I have found that the busier I am, the better my time management skills are! I keep my energy levels up with use of wellness products in a “wellness home”. I also remember the quotes from Nike, “Just do it!”, and Mark Twain’s, “Age is a matter of the mind. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter!” I just keep going no matter how “young” I am getting!

Q: Do you offer seminars or workshops?

I offer and develop seminars as needed or requested on sensory-based problem behaviors which can include information from several of my publications as spring-boards. Developing Sensory Strategy Plans (I prefer this term over the label, “Sensory Diet”) using strategies in the classrooms and/or homes, treating sleep difficulties in children and/or adults, or the treatment of idiopathic toe walking. Any combination of these concerns can be addressed in a seminar.

If you would like more information on Ileana McCaigue OTR/L providing a seminar or workshop in the United States or other countries please fill out the form below or here.