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Hand In Hand OTC | Jeanette Suen
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Jeanette Suen
Clinical Director
What makes you want to become an occupational therapist?

I like to work with my hands, doing handicraft, sewing, knitting, etc. As well, I like to think, analyse and organise, but not sitting at a desk inside an office. When I was first introduced to occupational therapy while I was in high school (in the 70’s), I was immediately gravitated to it. I’m truly thankful to the friend who told me about occupational therapy.

In your years in occupational therapy, what is your most unforgettable or rewarding incident?

I once worked with two little boys, John and Peter (pseudonym) in a special preschool centre. John had spastic quadriplegia (a severe form of cerebral palsy involving arms and legs), and Peter, spastic diplegia (a relatively milder form of cerebral palsy involving mainly the legs). They were both 2-year old when I first met them. John was so involved that he was still unable to sit or do anything for himself (e.g. eating, toileting) at the age of 2-year. Peter, being less involved, was then able to sit with support. John was energetic and curious about the world around him. Despite his physical condition, he was motivated to learn and to help himself. I still remember that he used his little finger to point, as he was not able to turn his hand so as to bring his pointer up. As he was active and wanted to move, he fell a lot. Peter, though less involved, was timid, and dared not face any challenges by himself. He rarely moved, and of course, rarely fell. With treatment, they both improved over the years. By the time they left the preschool centre at 6-year, both were reasonably independent in their self-care activities. Most of all, both were able to walk indoors by pushing a ladderback chair. As a young therapist, it was like a miracle to me for children with such involvement to be so functional!


After a few years, I went to visit them at school. I was speechless when I saw John walking with a pair of quad sticks, and Peter using a wheelchair! Motivation is such an important factor in an intervention programme. From then on, I dare not underestimate the potential of any children, and more importantly, I always look at a child as a person who has more than just a set of skills to be trained!

In your years in occupational therapy, what have you learnt most?

The importance of the process in doing a job! It is not “what” but “how” we do a job that we learn and develop ourselves, building the foundation, such as endurance and resilience, in enabling our skills and actualising our potential.

Of all the courses and workshops you have attended, which one do you find most enlightening?

This has to be the 6-week International Course at Peto Andras State Institute for Conductive Education of the Motor Disabled and Conductors’ College in Budapest, Hungary. It was such an eye opener for me to see children with severe motor handicap to be so functional. Even children who could not sit had to move from one room to another during transition time by pulling themselves along a series of slatted plinth. They were expected to apply whatever they had learnt in treatment sessions in their daily life activities. Time and space were allocated for children to practice the skills learnt. The in-between time (time between treatment sessions), where our lives exist, was truly honoured. Simple daily life activities, such as toileting, eating, walking from one room to another, etc. became meaningful “treatment” sessions.  The programme I saw truly reflected the famous saying of Prof. Peto (the founder of Conductive Education), “No part of the day is better for learning than another.”

With whom would you like to spend a day so as to further your skills and knowledge as an occupational therapist?

I would like to spend a day with a person who is very negative, be this person a parent or a therapist. People who are negative can be demoralising and draining to the others. They tend to cast a shadow on the children and hamper their development. I would like to hear their stories and find out the reasons behind their negativity. I believe they too have their positive seeds inside them. If only we could help these positive seeds to grow, the children we work with would have more space to venture and develop!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to spend time with my family, doing activities that we enjoy, such as cooking, eating, watching TV drama series, exploring Singapore, and travelling, together. When I am on my own with my occupational therapy hat off (looking forward to have more of such time), I like to knit, crochet and sew.