We all want to achieve goals. When we achieve our goals we feel a sense of fulfillment, meaning, and motivation to make more goals. I have seen orthotics help many kids achieve their goals, and I would like to share a secret with you that I believe can make your child’s orthotic experience more positive and meaningful.
I’ve been providing kids with orthotics for 15 years, and in that time my clients have taught me that the first priority of my job is not to make them orthotics, but to help them achieve their goals. Whatever their goals are, whether it’s to walk, or to take away pain, or to help get shoes on easier. The orthotic does not motivate the kids to successfully achieve their goals. The kids inner motivation to achieve their goals makes the orthotic successful. That’s why my main job is to support and listen to the kids and their families. By identifying their goals, then working with and supporting the needs of the client to achieve that goal, I give them input and share control of the orthotic experience. The more I listen, the more I share control of the orthotic experience with my clients. And this is the key because when people have control over what they are doing they will usually engage with, interact, and enjoy that thing much more than if they had no control over it. So the question is how can we as orthotists share more control of the orthotic experience so our clients can continue to engage with their orthotics in meaningful ways in their daily life, rather than just in a clinical or therapeutic setting. I would like to answer that question by sharing with you a few insights which I believe will help clients and their families feel more of a sense of engagement with their orthotics.
The first is social media. It is getting so easy to make meaningful connections through social media like facebook, instagram, twitter and snapchat. Orthotists must begin to embrace these mediums in order to show our clients and their families that orthotics are not just another piece of medical equipment, but they are a part of their personal story. And right now social media is the best place to tell your stories. Whether it’s posting pictures on instagram or participating in a facebook group, these are all ways of sharing your story. My first attempt at providing a forum for my clients to share their stories was by creating a character named Mo the SMO. Mo transforms from an actual SMO into a kid friendly cartoon character. I’m hoping kids and families will relate to Mo in a fun and easy way and include him in their journey by connecting with other people, and sharing how they make orthotics a fun and important part of their life.
Secondly, I believe that apps, which are specific to families of children with special needs, can really improve engagement with orthotics. Obviously, the content of the app is critical to making this work, but if it is engaging enough it can change the idea of wearing an orthotic from “it’s best when not seen” to “I’m proud to wear an orthotic”. I recently created a free app based on Mo the SMO, which has special needs specific photo stickers that clients and families can use on pictures they’ve taken. Thus allowing them to create customized images of their unique journey and achievement of important milestones to share with friends and loved ones. For information about “Team Mo” check out the “Mo the SMO” page on my website.
The next way my company, Toronto Orthopedic Appliance Services, shares control of the orthotic experience with our clients is we offer to make custom images on all custom orthotics. This gives the client and their families the freedom to choose any image, colour, or design to put on their orthotics. Some families even create their own design. Truly making it “one of a kind”. While doing this does take some extra equipment, time, and experience with graphic design, Toronto Orthopedic offers this service for free because we feel it is an essential part of the orthotic experience. Everyone is very excited to see the finished design at the delivery day “reveal”. The kids look forward to showing off their new orthotics to their friends and family. Before social media came along this was the only way we could help our clients tell their story, and even now it is still the most effective way of engaging our clients and families and creating enthusiasm for wearing the orthotics.
The last idea I wanted to share with you is something that is not as easily accessible at this time (as the first three things) but it will definitely be a game changer once it is more commonly available. This medium is 3D printing. Currently, 3D printed prosthetics are being made and shared by anyone with a 3D printer. The software and design files are free, and the cost of printer materials is relatively inexpensive. Even the cost of 3D printers have come down, and will continue to come down, making accessibility to this technology easy for someone to get into, even if it’s as a hobby. Even though I believe that an orthotist should be intimately involved in the assessment, manufacturing, and fitting of orthotics, this technology will make it possible for a client or their family to do all of this themselves. Ultimately, a client who designs and manufactures their own orthotic will be much more engaged with it, will want to wear it, and will see it as a positive addition to their life.
As orthotists it will be our challenge in the coming years to figure out how we can work with all of these new technologies in order to engage our clients in their orthotic journey by providing them a more meaningful orthotic experience. I always look forward to hearing from you, and appreciate any feedback you may want to share, so please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!