More Than a Therapist, An Advocate

By Talya Sanders, Samuel Merritt University Magazine

Juliana Lainez, OTD ’22, knows what it’s like to be the parent of an occupational therapy patient. In fact, it’s the driving force behind her desire to become an occupational therapist. When her son, Pancho, was about two years old, he struggled in loud places, couldn’t stand touching certain materials, and often crashed into things.

Thankfully, Pancho started occupational therapy that helped his sensory issues. But for the past seven years, Juliana has needed to consistently push for the services Pancho needs at school and from healthcare providers. Now, she is preparing to fight that fight for a broader population as a career.

“I realized I’m going to have to be the advocate for my son, and if I go into this field of occupational therapy, I can help him and children like him,” she says. “Sensory issues in kids often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with ADHD symptoms, especially in Black or Brown children who are also struggling with generational trauma and other trauma. You cannot lose the social justice piece behind it, and I’m always an advocate for that in my classes.”

Lainez recently received the Choksi Scholarship, a $3,000 award that came in the nick of time. As a single mom in graduate school in the Bay Area, she moved in with her mother to save money. With COVID-19 distance learning requirements, Pancho needed a computer and the family’s food costs rose significantly without access to school meals.

“The Choksi Scholarship is significant for me because every dollar counts right now and it takes a bit of the stress off,” she says. “It helps me focus more on what I’m doing in school to begin with.”

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