“I love going to work and improving children's physical skills through play.” says Kamal Dasani, mother of twins and Dubai based Senior Occupational Therapist.
Indian by origin, born in UK but growing up in Australia since she was six years old, Kamal came to Dubai in 2008, when her Kenyan husband got a job with Emirates Airlines. She studied in Australia and has a degree in Occupational Therapy, as she always loved to work with children she specialised in pediatrics. “I always loved kids, I love their honesty, is fun to play and I like to help the parents who are often quite stressed” says Kamal, now mother of one year old twin girls. She really enjoys her job and has worked as a Senior Occupational Therapist for over 10 years in Australia, China and Dubai.
Getting pregnant with twins was a blessing but also a challenge as she had to be on bed rest for some months meaning she had to stop working early. But that was just theoretically, as she used the time to develop TherapyBox, a website that combines an online store for products that boost the development of all children and help children with special needs, as well as a blog and free resources for parents to help their children at home. Kamal also sets up sensory spaces and provides training to various companies in Dubai about Occupational Therapy, how to maximize the benefits of play with children with special needs and advocating for inclusive education.
The idea of “Therapy Box - Everyday solutions for everyday children” came mainly as Kamal was not happy with the local offer for therapy toys and products. She decided to embark on this new project and source quality products from Australia in order to help the children, the parents and the therapists in getting better and faster results from their work.
What is occupational therapy and what does it mean for children need it?
According to Wikipedia, Occupational therapy (OT) is the use of assessment and treatment to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of people with a physical, mental, or cognitive disorder. Occupational therapy interventions focus on adapting the environment, modifying the task, teaching the skill, and educating the client/ and the family in order to increase participation in and performance of daily activities, particularly those that are meaningful to the client.
Occupational therapists promote skill development and independence in all daily activities. For an adult, this may mean looking at the areas of self-care, home-making, leisure, and work. The "occupations" of childhood may include playing in the park with friends, washing hands, going to the bathroom, cutting with scissors, drawing, etc.
The whole idea of occupational therapy is to boost children’s’ development without forcing them to do too many things they’re not fond of. Find what a child loves to do and is motivated by and use this in therapy and play to boost their development. “In today’s busy scheduled world, I think some parents push their kids too much and make them do too many activities. Allowing your child to be “bored” is ok as it gives them time for creativity. Let them have a balanced week so they choose creative play and use their imagination.” is one of the most important pieces of advises given by Kamal.
Kamal always worked full time but now with two small girls she works part-time at the Riverston Children’s Centre in Jumeirah. This way she also has time for her store, blog and to attend wonderful events for mums and little ones, where she is often invited to talk about occupational therapy for children. The Riverston Children’s Center is a clinic with Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy as well as an early-years school program and an accredited training program for adults who want to work with children and further their education.
We understand that Kamal likes to play with the kids but I wanted to know what she likes most to play with her little girls: “I just love watching the girls play and am amazed at how fast they learn new tasks. Our favorite activities are messy play, obstacle courses, reading and dancing!” she answers very quickly. As a family of four, they love to take the girls out for lunch with friends and to play areas, anywhere that they can interact with other children. But “our absolute favourite activity is swimming… where it’s relaxing for us and fun for the girls at the same time".
And the last but not least, I wanted to know what she likes to do in her " me time": “Like most mums, I love to get my nails done and visit a spa or go to the movies so I can switch off and be in another world for a few hours”. And those few hours are done in a blink of an eye, I would say.
You can follow Kamal on Instagram at @therapyboxaustralia.