OTS 92: Incorporating Mindfulness as a School-Based OT Practitioner with Dr. Deirdre Azzopardi


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Welcome to the show notes for Episode 92 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast.


In this episode of the OT schoolhouse podcast, we are discussing mindfulness in school-based OT with Dr. Deirdre Azzopardi of TheMindfulSchoolOT.com


Deirdre is an experience school-based OT who has been incorporating mindful

practices into her life both personally and professionally. She uses mindfulness to support students, teachers, and administrators in her school district and has seen the benefits of doing so.


If you are unsure what mindfulness fully entails or are already on board the mindfulness train and want to get some insight into how you can incorporate it into your sessions, be sure to listen to this episode.


Links to Show References:



Transcript

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Amazing Narrator

Hello and welcome to the OT Schoolhouse podcast, your source for school-based occupational therapy tips, interviews, and professional development. Now to get the conversation started, here's your host, Jayson Davies. Class is officially in session.


Jayson Davies

Hello, everyone. Welcome to Episode 92 of the OT Schoolhouse podcast. Thank you so much for being here today. Today, the day that this podcast is actually dropping is Valentine's Day is February 14, 2022. And so before we jump into our topic for today, which is going to be mindfulness, I figured I'd share a little story. You know Valentine's Day is an important date for so many people. And like those people, it is for me as well. My wife and I actually started dating on February 9. So for about five years, I think it was the while we were dating February 9, it was our anniversary day. And so when it came around for February every year, we'd kind of split the difference split the responsibilities, one of us would plan the anniversary, the other would plan, Valentine's Day, or some years we'd get lazy, and we just kind of combine them. And we do our anniversary and Valentine's Day on February 9, that way we could avoid the hassle of trying to go out to dinner on February 14, when the rest of the world was also trying to go out to dinner. Anyways, about five years into our relationship when the time came to propose. I used it to my advantage. That year, I was planning our anniversary on February 9, and she was in charge of planning Valentine's Day. So she knew that a proposal was likely coming soon. And she really thought it was coming on February 9. But I made sure that wasn't the case. And actually I "hijacked" her date night of February 14, and ended up proposing to her on February 14, with her family there, her parents, and her brother and sister. And it was a very happy moment. And you know, now four years later, after our marriage, we are expecting our first child. So it's been a good, good life since that day. And even before then, I just wanted to share that with you real quick. I hope you all are having or had a great Valentine's Day and continue to have good Valentine's Days in the future. All right, so let's go ahead and jump into the purpose of this podcast. You know, maybe you wanna hear a little bit about me, but I know you want to hear about mindfulness today. And that's exactly what we are talking about. We have on a very special guest. Her name is Dr. Deirdre Azzopardi and she is from themindful schoolot.com. That's her website. And Deirdre is an experienced school-based OT who has been incorporating mindful practices into both her personal and professional life for a very long time. She uses mindfulness to support our students, teachers, and even the administrators at her schools. And so she's been doing this, she's seen the benefits. But not only has she seen the benefits, but the people that really have a say in what she does on campus, are also seeing the benefits, which he's going to share with us. And you're going to see how you can use it to your advantage as well. Now, if you're unsure about kind of the definition of mindfulness, don't worry, we are going to go over that today. We're also going to go over some of the research and how Dierdre uses mindfulness in our practice to support all those individuals that I just spoke about. So if you haven't already, go ahead, put that phone in your pocket, stop hitting that button that fasts forward 30 seconds, you don't need it anymore. Please help me to welcome Dr. Dierdre as a party to the OT schoolhouse podcast. Enjoy the rest of the episode. Hey, Dr. Dierdre. Welcome to the OT Schoolhouse podcast. How are you doing today? Right.


Dr. Deirdre Azzopardi

It's a day off. I had time to do a full yoga practice and meditation before we started. So I'm feeling


Jayson Davies

Oh, that is wonderful. Yes. And today is Martin Luther King Day as we record this, of course, when it goes out it'll probably be in February sometime. But yes, thank you all for being here with us today. Actually, you know what you just mentioned a little bit about yoga and mindfulness, which is kind of where we're going with this topic today. Why don't you share actually just kind of, to let us get to know you? What is the kind of your morning routine with mindfulness and yoga?


Dr. Deirdre Azzopardi

Oh, wow, this is good. Cool. So my morning routine is I never miss a meditation practice. I started my meditation practice when I was getting my adult yoga certification. It's kind of part of the deal is that you do that you now start to kind of embody these practices. So that's been about six years that I've done a daily practice. So I never missed my meditation practice in the morning and I always do some kind of movement. It might be I'm doing a tree pose while I'm waiting for my coffee to be made. So it's not necessarily it depends on the day. I'm having a really good day. I usually try to do at least half an hour before I get off to school.


Jayson Davies

That is amazing. That's kind of my goal is to get up in the morning and get a little movement in. But it doesn't always work out that way. So congratulations, I guess I should say, for you to actually have prioritized that in your life to make sure that you at least get something in the morning. That's awesome. So,


Dr. Deirdre Azzopardi

yeah, well, I realized that it changed the way that I showed up at work and showed up for kids. So, you know, when I really realized that, I was like, oh, you know, I feel a lot better the days that I do that. So it's real, it's not always so easy. So


Jayson Davies

absolutely, I understand. Alright, so before we get into mindfulness, I actually want to give you a moment to talk a little bit about your OT career and kind of how you got to where you are today.


Dr. Deirdre Azzopardi

Okay, so I've been an OT since the dark ages a long time now. So 30 years, the, and when I started, I always you know, was have always worked in pediatrics, doing it in every capacity could do it in. So I've done private practice, I've done a clinic-based, you know, kind of work, and a lot of work in the schools. In the last 15-16 years, I've been full-time in a school district in my own school district, which is really an interesting thing, right? Because you become very connected, you know, to the children, because it's like your own community. And my own son got special education through our school districts. So I take my job very, very personally, whether that's good or bad, I'm not sure. So over the years, what I've noticed through my career, so during this time that I've had my undergraduate and OT because you could do with them, I went back and I got my master's in psychology because the mental health aspect of OT really has always interested me. And somehow, when we get to the schools, a lot of that stuff kind of goes away, because we've gotten very sort of pigeonholed into certain areas. But I really was interested in that. So I went back to school, and I got a psychology degree was contemplating becoming a school psychologist, and then remembered how much I hate paperwork, dropped that I stopped, I didn't go as far as getting the actual certification, but I got a master's in psychology, okay. And then kind of fell in love back was my OT practice. And when and I did get a doctorate in OT, and what my project was bad. And what I realized, in terms of my own job and career is that the things that I did in my own life, in my whole, you know, my home life impacted the way that I was at work. So I really got into exercise as a way to regulate, I started to notice that like, I was just a better human being when I exercise, so straight-up exercise. And I was like, you know, I work with a lot of kids who have regulation challenges, who are anxious and all this other stuff. I bet there's some research out there for straight-up exercise to help kids in school. And there is, and there is, so I really started getting interested in the idea of habits like What habits can we help foster with kids so that they're not just learning these IEP goals right here right now? What can we help them to use for the rest of their life that will help them, you know, in the entirety of their lives, and especially was interested in school because I loved the idea of an even playing ground like they didn't have to go to an SI clinic. This was like the place where any kid could learn these things. So that's really been the focus of my life is things that are really habits that just help people with their mental well-being.


Jayson Davies

Yeah, and you're definitely in the right field to be able to do that. I mean, occupational therapy habits are so important to everything that we do as OT. So that's great that you're able to use your practice as an OT as well as, your insights and your education from being a psychologist to help foster habit-building within the kids. And like you said, on an even playing field, within the schools, in schools is that place where we get to help everyone doesn't matter what their socio-economic statuses or whatnot, everyone's at school, aside from the people that are at maybe a private school, if something but people the general public is that schools and we get to support them. So that's awesome. Great.


Dr. Deirdre Azzopardi

Yeah. And I love the idea. Also, I love the idea that school is sort of a microcosm of life. You know, it's the natural social environment for kids. So I just think we should never squander the opportunity that we have as practitioners to help people in their natural social environment. So that's why I don't like when we become so pigeonholed because then we're just sort of like a clinic-based therapist in school or a medically based therapist in school. But we can do much better than that, and broader and bigger. So yeah.


Jayson Davies

Great. So let's go ahead and talk a little bit about mindfulness then. I guess my first question is really, how do you describe mindfulness to someone who's never really heard that term? Mean? We often kind of think of that elevator pitch right? About like, what is OT? What would we say if someone asked us about OT? But what about mindfulness? What's that kind of elevator pitch you have when someone asks you about mindfulness.