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.
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.