Casey Rabideau (AT 2022)

The Darkest Day
Casey Rabideau

A native of upstate New York, Casey Rabideau moved to New Hampshire to pursue an education from UNH and found her niche.

After earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, Rabideau completed a graduate certificate in the online Assistive Technology program and joined the faculty in 2022 as Clinical Associate Professor with the Occupational Therapy Department. She is excited to participate in the launch of a new Occupational Therapy Assistant bachelor’s degree program at UNH that creates the first step along a clear pathway for the next generation of specialists.

The teenaged Rabideau watched her aunt grow a successful practice in speech therapy. After observing positive results for young children experiencing trauma, Casey was impressed by the dramatic life changes made possible by the right therapeutic treatment. Discovering that occupational therapy can elicit development changes at the sensory, cognitive, motor, social and emotional levels, Casey found her bliss.

As an occupational therapist, she worked six years at Boston Children’s Hospital and was previously employed in Massachusetts with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Thom Child & Family Services, and the Integrated Center for Child Development. To hone her skills, Rabideau rotated through seven different specialty areas during a pediatric fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Casey completed additional fellowship training with the NH and MA chapters of the  Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) where she engaged in advocacy efforts, developed advanced leadership skills, and contributed to disability policy change at the state, regional and national levels. The eye-opening opportunity to see a “day in the life” for children and families was a chance to blend theory with practical application.

"Visiting a patient’s residence is a unique opportunity to holistically understand their daily challenges within the home environment. Occupational therapy can be as simple as adding a handle extension to a fork or as complex as providing robot assistive technology to enhance neurological rehabilitation."

To keep pace with rapid developments in the field, Rabideau enrolled in the UNH Assistive Technology online graduate certificate program. Sharing newly learned techniques with her hospital colleagues, they collaborated to create a collection of assistive devices as teaching tools with families of young patients.

"I studied with educators and engineers as well as occupational, speech and physical therapists  in a confluence of diverse experiences that fostered a heightened level of creative problem-solving. The Assistive Technology program incorporates optional hands-on exploratory sessions but also offers working therapists the alternative of pursuing similar experiments in their employment setting. The nurturing environment at UNH provides a model of support that encourages occupational therapists to approach their patients with that same empathy."

Rabideau’s professional demeanor softens as she describes a remarkable patient with a congenital heart defect that required a transplant at age four with an exacerbating weakness in one arm due to a stroke. With impressive determination, this young girl defined a clear progression of specific skills she wished to master such as tying an apron behind her back, brushing her own hair or peeling off her wet swimsuit after a lesson. Musing on the training that allowed her to successfully address these unique needs, Casey flashes a warm smile. “She was a thinker who always understood exactly what would make her life better, a powerful person who never gave up.”

Balancing client needs with appropriate therapy calls for a nimble yet humble touch. Despite the ever-present temptation to “fix” everything at once, Casey has learned to set an achievable pace so that patients can fully master each skill, one at a time.

"Experience has taught me that if you can solve a single problem on their darkest day, they return home with a brighter light."

                                                                                                            Written by Gwendolyn Goguelet