One of the unique surprises at AOTA’s 2017 Annual Conference & Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia was the absence of a traditional keynote speaker at the Welcome Ceremony. To mark our Centennial at conference, we celebrated the profession’s achievements since 1917, many of which include client success stories. The Today Show’s Al Roker’s family story was part of that message.
In a video welcome to this year’s more than 14,000 attendees, Roker explains that he, like a lot of people, did not know much about occupational therapy until someone close to him needed it: his son Nick. Realizing that at 3 years old Nick had both speech and physical challenges, Roker and his wife Deborah Roberts sought help in the form of occupational therapy.
“We had him tested 6 ways to Sunday,” Roker said, explaining that they thought he could have Autism Spectrum Disorder or Cerebral Palsy. “At 3 years old, he didn’t walk, he didn’t talk. It was not a bright outlook for my boy which was heartbreaking because you don’t know what to do…You look in the eyes of this little boy and you know there’s something there.”
Enter Roker’s occupational therapist Lori Rothman. In the 10 years that Rothman has worked with Nick, so much has changed.
“Within about a year he was walking, within a year-and-a-half was riding a two-wheel bicycle without training wheels. By 5, he was enrolled in Tae Kwon Do. He’s 14 now and a year-and-a-half ago he got his black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He ran track on his middle school track team, he’s playing basketball, and he told me he wants to start skateboarding,” Roker explained as conference attendees laughed and applauded.
Before starting occupational therapy, Roker said that Nick’s future was uncertain, but it is now “limitless.”
Expressing his gratitude, Roker saluted the profession of occupational therapy and thanked attendees for the last 100 years, saying, “What you do is God’s work on earth every day.”
For more highlights from AOTA’s Annual Conference & Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia, visit www.otcentennial.org and www.aota.org/aota17-social.
A wonderful story to echo our goal of facilitating life changes of our clients.