There was an atmosphere of excitement as we all entered Hall 1at Birmingham’s ICC for the first session of this year’s RCOT conference #COT2017 and we were not to be disappointed. The first Keynote speaker was Paul McGee who inspired us, challenged us and made us laugh along the way. Paul is the Managing Director of PMA International which aims ‘to help people achieve better results in life and have fun in the process’. He is also known as the SUMO Guy. SUMO stands for ‘Shut up and move on’ and you can follow Paul on twitter @TheSumoGuy and his website is www.thesumoguy.com.
Paul had very engaging slides and used cartoons, some of which can be viewed in this pdf from his website. ‘Faced with a challenge? 7 questions to help you.’ He got the audience engaged from the get go by us making stand and repeat a phase to a partner – we very trustingly did this but then wandered what on earth we had just said as it was in a foreign language. This turned out to be Norwegian for ‘I love you sugar babe’! Paul then told us that the word inspire means ‘to breathe life into’ and that is what he understood occupational therapists aim to do. This set the scene for the conference as ‘inspire’, ‘inspiring’ and ‘inspirational’ all became words I heard and saw tweeted a lot of the course of the conference.
Not satisfied in making us speak Norwegian, Paul then got us to repeat another phrase after him – this time we were asked to repeat to each other that we were utterly and completely Mad! Fortunately, MAD turned out to stand for ‘Making a Difference’. Next, Paul asked us to focus on our attitudes and thoughts and to ‘Mind our mindset.’ He suggested that we need to evaluate the challenges we are dealing with and put them in perspective. We were asked to try evaluating a current challenge on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 = death.
Paul recommended that we try to push a few more doors because you only need one to open. This reminded me of Professor Peter Millard, my supervisor when I held a Senior I research post in the Department of Geriatric medicine at St Georges hospital. Prof Millard taught me this same lesson in 1990 about applying for research funds. The worse you may get back is a ‘no’ but this is worth the risk because of the greater potential benefits that can occur if a door does open. It is the ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ and ‘you have to be in it to win it mentality’
Paul also warned us against CNN = the barrage constant negative news we are now subjected to and encouraged us to remember the wonder and good in our world. So as we move forward we need to stop being on autopilot, take time to think, reflect and move on with more knowledge. Paul then put up my favourite moto on the screen ‘Carpe Diem’ (for anyone who hasn’t heard of this before it means ‘seize the day’). He reminded us that it doesn’t matter if we fall, but it’s how long you stay down that matters. So the SUMO Guy got us laughing, but also to stop, reflect and put our challenges into perspective. To hold on to our vision as occupational therapists and remember that we do make a difference and being MAD is good!
Our second Plenary Speaker was Dr Winnie Dunn from the University of Kansas, USA @winniedunn. Winnie is an internationally recognized research and expert in the field of sensory processing in everyday life and author of the Sensory profile measures.
As my own PhD related to test development and psychometrics and I am familiar with the sensory profile I was excited to hear her speak. Winnie emphasized that sensory processing is about everyone, not just those considered to be vulnerable or with a diagnosis associated with sensory processing difficulties. Children may process sensory information differently regardless of whether they are neurotypical. She summarised the evidence base from a comprehensive literature review and from data collected using the sensory Profile. I particularly liked how she made one of her points about not labelling clients based on their scores and distribution on the bell curve through using herself as an example.
During the Opening plenary we also were asked to express our thanks for this year’s conference organising team: Sarah Bodell, Dee Christie, Ken Levins, Jennifer Read, Alicia Ridout and Clare Taylor.
We ended the session with a minutes silence to remember all those who have been affected by the recent Grenfell Tower fire disaster in North Kensington, London. I personally appreciated this quiet time to pray for all those involved and was glad COT included us in the Nation’s minute of silence.
Dr Alison Laver-Fawcett @alisonlaverfaw