Young Alumni Q & A: Katie Townsend

Katie Townsend outdoors

Katie Townsend is a double alumna of Colorado State University, earning her undergraduate degree in sociology in 2006 and her degree in OT from the Department of Occupational Therapy in 2017. She is a pediatric occupational therapist in Colorado Springs, where she lives with her husband and her dog.

1. Describe your current position and some of the responsibilities that come with it.

I am a pediatric occupational therapist at an outpatient clinic in Colorado Springs that specializes in children age birth to 10. We are Neuro-Development Treatment (NDT) focused. The clinic has OT, PT, and ST and we all work very closely together collaborating to ensure a continuation of care across all disciplines. We treat all diagnoses, but some of the main ones we see in our clinic are Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and Sensory Processing Disorder. I work on the foundational skills that children require to engage in their daily routines and occupations using play to promote development, including but not limited to fine motor skills, coordination skills, visual motor skills, ADL skills, attention, postural control, functional mobility, sensory processing, and emotional regulation.

2. How has COVID-19 changed operations for your industry, and how are you responding to it?

During early 2020 when COVID-19 hit, we transitioned from in-clinic services to telehealth services. This was the biggest change. However, by May I was back in the clinic treating a limited number of children while continuing to treat using telehealth. After returning to the clinic the biggest changes were in how we cleaned and having to wear masks. Since the vaccinations have come out we have slowly been returning back to normal and we are operating very much like we did prior to COVID.

3. Why did you decide to pursue your current career path?

My path to OT began after working as a behavior interventionist providing Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA therapy to children with autism. I enjoyed the work but wanted to continue to advance in my career and wanted new challenges. Without further education, I knew I could not accomplish this. I considered becoming a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst or BCBA, but after observing an OT session for one of my clients, I knew that OT was the career I wanted and began my process of applying to CSU-OT.

4. How have your education and experiences at CSU helped you in your career? Was there a faculty member in Occupational Therapy who inspired you most?

The part of my experience that helped me the most in my current career was my Level II fieldwork in a pediatric clinic. My fieldwork educator herself was a graduate of the CSU-OT program. In my current position, my mentor was also a CSU-OT graduate. Lisa Fyffe taught the pediatric unit which really supported my integration into my current field. She was tough in the way that challenged you to think and be better and really helped prepare me for entry into the clinic and for the national test. Arlene Schmid was also inspirational to me when I was in school. She hired me to help with her research when I was a first-year, studying the impact of yoga on chronic pain and brain injuries. This gave me perspective on real-world applications of OT and the power and positive impact it can have on helping to improve someone’s quality of life.

5. What advice do you have for students looking to join your field?

If a person is looking to enter pediatrics, I highly recommend spending time with and observing children of all ages and abilities to get a good foundational understanding of development.  This will help immensely in your clinical work. I also highly recommend completing your level II in a pediatric clinic that teaches/promotes NDT as this too will help your understanding of development and improve your facilitation skills.

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