Resident Uses Horses As Therapy Tool

Barbara Smith is an occupational therapist in town.

Name: Barbara Smith

Street:  Red Coach Road

Family: Smith/Smolinski Family

Occupation: occupational therapist

Hobbies/interests: I enjoy listening to Motown music (on my Ipod) while skating at Roller Palace in Beverly, most Tuesday mornings. I am a writer and take frequent walks into town to energize my brain. I also swim and read a lot of fiction to relax. I love my book club.

What are you passionate about? Creating activities that make learning easier for children with developmental disabilities. I write articles, books and blog about them. I work one day a week at Ironstone Therapies in Andover doing hippotherapy. This involves using a horse as a therapy tool. My clients are very young (between 2 and 4 years of age). Many of them are incredibly responsive to the sensory stimulation and emotional bond they develop with the horse. The activities that I have them do; such as standing on top of a horse while throwing a ball into a basket help them develop confidence and motor skills. It’s also very rewarding to share my expertise by presenting at seminars and conferences.

What did you study in school? I have a BA in English from the State University of New York at New Palz and MS degree in occupational therapy from Tufts University.

Are you utilizing this subject now? I am very fortunate in that I have been able to integrate my writing and therapy background to write books. The Recycling Occupational Therapist and From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills are both available through my publisher Therapro.com, on Amazon and via my website.

I was also able to use my skills to adapt activities for my mother when she had Alzheimer’s Disease. I wrote a book about the experience called Still Giving Kisses: A Guide to Helping and Enjoying the Alzheimer’s Victim You Love. I observed that many residents at her facilities had few visitors. My guess is that family members didn’t know how to spend time with the loved one who was no longer able to speak. I wanted to address that concern in my own small way by describing how I interacted with my mom through all the stages of the disease. 

What are you most proud of? My book From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills has won the 2012 National Parenting Publications Award (NAPPA).

Best book: To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind first. I know that this is not an original answer, but that’s because it’s such a great book. After having read it several times while growing up and again when my son was required to read it in middle and high school, it never lost its relevance and beauty.

Best movie: West Side Story; I grew up in Queens and attending Broadway musicals. Dance, love, suspense, sorrow and hope…what’s not to love?

Dream vacation: I already indulge in local, lazy beach days, so any fantasy trip would involve art, jazz, walking in parks and exotic food. I guess that spells PARIS!

Favorite tradition? When my son was 5-years-old, my husband and I decided to try out a dog kennel and fly to Florida over the winter holidays. We discovered that our dog was better behaved afterward and we loved camping at the Myakka State Park Wildlife reserve. Although our dog passed away years ago, we have continued the tradition for almost 20 years.

Who is your favorite local resident? I love Dan Durell’s (Klink’s bakery) bread and his wife Susan always has a smile. As a Boy Scout leader Dan had a wonderful impact on my son’s life.

What obstacle have you over come? My mother was socially awkward and my father was ill when my sister and I were growing up. Looking back, I think that my mother had Asperger’s syndrome and extreme anxiety. This made growing up a challenge, but I think my background has always made me want to help the underdog, whether the poor or the disabled.   

What is the coolest thing you have ever done? Two events come to mind not only because they were very cool, but also quite challenging. I worked for a year as a “houseparent” with 9 developmentally disabled men when I was only 23-years-old. I lived in a tiny apartment in a huge former doctor’s house. This was during the height of the deinstitutionalization movement and the men had been moved out of the infamous Willowbrook State School in New York. I had no idea how to cook, let alone for 9 men and I had to teach them everything about community living, like not hoarding food in the dresser.

Another cool thing I did was travel around Europe for six weeks, alone. I have a very bad sense of direction and can be shy so I knew that if I could survive (and enjoy) this, I could do anything.  

Where is your favorite place on earth? I like camping and bicycling at Nickerson State Park in late spring and early fall when there are fewer tourists. Actually my favorite place is wherever my husband, George happens to be…... (corny but true).

What do you wish you had done in your 20’s but didn’t? I sometimes wished that I majored in a foreign language like Spanish or French and then lived in that country. I am very jealous of bilingual people.

How long have you lived in HW? 15 years.

How come you chose HW? My husband and I lived in Cambridge and in 1986 bought a house in Essex because we loved the ocean. My son went to the Kids Connection day care center in Hamilton and I liked the parents I met there. When we decided to move to Hamilton, we visited Red Coach Road and liked how it was teeming with children. Other factors included the nice community center, easier access to stores and fewer mosquitoes. I also like the small town feeling and easy train access to Boston.

What is your favorite place in Hamilton Wenham? The library. I also love the post office on Railroad ave. I sell some of my books via pay pal and Amazon and am a regular there.

What is your favorite shop?  , they have wonderful produce and sell Klink’s bread.

What is a fact about you that most don’t know? I am really good at Etch and Sketch and make portraits.

Do you have an unusual or funny story having to do with Hamilton Wenham? Well, here is a story about my son. He is an Eagle Scout from Hamilton's troop 35. He needed an extra credit at Salem State College and last year took a backpacking course for fun. He got the date of the final trip mixed up and missed it. He could have failed the course but since he spent the summer backpacking on the Appalachian Trail (alone) from the Delaware Water Gap to Maine and wrote an essay about the trip, he got an A in the course. I’m not sure that he would find this story funny, but I am so proud of him. He has worked hard to overcome his challenges.

Where would someone see you around town? You will more likely see me walking around town than sitting. However, my husband and I like to eat lunch at theon Fridays. Most of your readers probably already know that the food, service and prices are fantastic, so I hope that my mention doesn’t make the restaurant even more busy…...

Which local services and programs do you support? I give a lecture to the occupational therapy assistant students at North Shore Community College each semester on the topic of animal-assisted therapies. I feel that community colleges are sometimes underrated and play an important role in helping young adults launch their careers. I also want to mention that I love viewing and blogging about the Art Grows Here exhibits. There is such incredible talent in our towns.

Hepzaba September 02, 2012 at 11:33 AM
What a wonderful, informative write up about Barbara. She is my two year old daughter's Occupational Therapist at Ironstone Therapies in Andover. She really amazing and has helped our daughter tremendously with hippotherapy.


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