CSU occupational therapy alumna brightens the lives of children

Story by Katie Townsend

Kelly Yates (’09) is changing the world internationally and here at home through occupational therapy. Since receiving her master’s degree from the Department of Occupational Therapy, Yates has been a pediatric therapist at Children’s Therapy TEAM and has been involved in the non-profit organization TEAMworks that seeks to improve and enhance the lives of children with special needs both locally and internationally.

Assisting children in need

Yates and her family

Traveling to Ukraine twice and Guatemala four times, Yates and her teammates assisted underprivileged children and children in orphanages with special needs providing them with the tools and equipment needed to improve their quality of life. “I am so proud of this organization and their heart for serving others through our professions,” Yates said. “I am very grateful I get to be a part of it.”

Her experience with traveling and working with TEAMworks has impacted how she and her husband have chosen to grow their family. They have adopted two children from China, both considered to have special needs.

Olympic-type competition

Yates is also making an impact here at home through TEAMworks. She participates in an after school program that addresses socialization skills through art and drama. Yates has also found a way to incorporate an Olympic-type competition into her occupational therapy practice. Yates developed Olympic events that are modified to resemble therapy activities, complete with medals for all participants, and the top three finishers receiving gold, silver or bronze medals. “It is highly motivating and a joy to watch,” she said.

Yates admits that pediatrics is a challenging and sometimes an overwhelming place with so many factors impacting the children, but the payoff is worth it. As she watches her clients grow, reach their goals, and the proud look on their parents’ faces, she can see the difference she is making with her work. In addition, Yates has found ways to balance the tough with the fun. sunny the mascotAt work the clinic has a mascot, Sunny the dog, and Yates is his wrangler. “It is pretty fun trying to coerce your co-workers to get in a gigantic dog costume, but it is even more fun to see the sweet kids light up when they see him,” Yates explained.

Raising awareness about OT

On top of traveling the globe to provide occupational therapy and implementing new and fun interventions at home, Yates also has a passion for educating people about occupational therapy and bringing awareness to the profession. “Sometimes I feel like we are the misunderstood or a little known discipline, and it feels good to educate people about what we can do to help their loved ones function more independently with greater quality of life,” she said.

CSU’s occupational therapy program prepared Yates for her entrance into the profession, but her work experience has really allowed her to hone her skills. “I can honestly say I have used every ounce of information from my classes at CSU,” Yates said. “I am tremendously grateful to CSU for preparing me for this environment and to Children’s Therapy TEAM for continuing to allow my growth as an occupational therapist.”

The Department of Occupational Therapy is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.