Pictured from left: Dana Sciullo (MOT '15) and her bother, Anthony
"I have been working towards becoming an occupational therapist since I was two years old." That was my opening sentence from my application essay to the University of Pittsburgh Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) program. When I was two years old, my brother, Anthony, was born with Down syndrome. I attended his frequent early intervention and outpatient therapy visits. When he was not in therapy, I enjoyed playing “therapist” by recreating the activities I had observed. Empowering Anthony to achieve the greatest level of independence and quality of life became a natural part of our relationship that continues to this day.
Upon earning my MOT degree from Pitt in 2015, I began working in pediatric settings including schools and outpatient clinics for six years. Although I loved all my clients, my passion was working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I began to search for ways I could create a larger impact in this community.
Because of Anthony, my family participated in the National Down Syndrome Society’s (NDSS) fundraising efforts and local affiliate activities for years. When I received a notification that NDSS was hiring a remote research associate, I was immediately interested.
NDSS was looking for an applicant to build partnerships with scientific and clinical organizations and create resources to improve the understanding of scientific research in the Down syndrome community.
The skills I gained in my master's training at Pitt transferred easily to this position. As an occupational therapist, building relationships is of utmost importance. To provide effective therapy, a relationship must be established between the therapist and client as well as their loved ones. A good therapist also develops relationships with other professionals including fellow occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, primary care physicians, surgeons, pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. to collaborate on clients’ care and obtain referrals.
Occupational therapists write evaluations, home programs, educational brochures and worksheets which must be accurate but also easily understood by those outside of the profession. Pitt OT's program presented opportunities to hone my ability to take technical topics from research articles and communicate the information to a variety of audiences. The same applies when writing for NDSS’ audience of individuals with Down syndrome and their loved ones.
I am proud of the work I do with NDSS. As research associate, I serve a community whom I am deeply passionate about. My Pitt education and the time spent practicing clinical occupational therapy prepared me well to compete for employment at the national level. It allowed me to successfully follow my dreams and I am on my way to achieving goals that previously seemed impossible. H2P!"