When I gave birth to my third child, I stood at a professional crossroad (as has happened for many women before me). I had ten years’ experience as an occupational therapist, eight of them in a day centre, caring for adults with motor and cognitive disabilities (many with CP).

I felt that maternity leave was a perfect time for re-thinking my professional path. I truly loved my work and took great satisfaction from it, but I had a sense that it was time for a change.

By Orly Gat, Occupational Therapist, MCs

Contemplating this idea, an old memory arose, and I remembered that some time ago I wanted to work with babies and their parents. Suddenly this excited me and seemed right and fitting for me.

This actually surprised me! I never worked with infants, and, except for my three, I had no experience with children. I also had no knowledge about these younger age groups. Despite the fact that I had just finished my second degree in occupational therapy, I knew that besides the wide theoretical knowledge that I obtained, I had few practical skills for working with infants. If I would work with a parent and her infant I would neither know how to touch the baby nor how to guide the parent.

Both my Bachelor and Master degree in occupational therapy gave me a wide scope of theoretical knowledge concerning infant development– from motor development to developmental psychology, play and language development, anatomy, physiology, and neurology up until and including developmental pathology of the foetus and the new-born.

Despite this, I still lacked practical knowledge. I could not imagine myself caring therapeutically for an infant. Nor could I imagine myself working with it on a physical level. I also felt a lack of practical life skills:  How will I know what to advise about sleep issues, nursing difficulties, feeding, and what to do when a baby cries?

So I began to search for the place where I could learn and acquire such practical knowledge. I searched for months, until a colleague of mine, a physiotherapist by profession, told me about the course offered by Dr. Chava Shelhav.

I went to observe the course. I sat myself down next to Chava, and I stayed.

My first intuitive feeling was that I arrived at a familiar place. The language that Chava spoke was known to me, the language of occupational therapy. She spoke about the “what” and not the “how”. She spoke about the importance of the functioning of the infant, about the holistic view that incorporates not only the infant, but its family and its place in the family to which it was born as well. She focused not only on its physical abilities, but also on the sensory, emotional, and cognitive aspects connected to the infant’s functioning.

This approach sat well with the professional theories I was raised on.

I stayed. I joined the training . And from then on, nine years later, I accompany each course in Israel as an assistant. The last two years I also accompanied the course in Holland as a senior teacher.

Just a few months after I began studying with Chava, I found myself using the new knowledge with the disabled adults I was working with. The knowledge of understanding movement in this new way greatly contributed to my ability to help them realize their abilities.

Soon after, I left my work with adults and began to work with infants and toddlers.

Except for my private clinical work with babies and toddlers, where I work according to the Child’Space – Shelhav Method, I apply my extensive knowledge that I obtained in the Child’Space Method to my work with toddlers on the autistic spectrum, and to my work in a rehabilitation day care facility for infants who have complex developmental disabilities.

I apply the practical knowledge I acquired in my day-to-day work, for instance in my work with infants on the spectrum. Working on the proprioceptive system is very significant in treating this population. I acquired many skills along with a deeper understanding of movement from the sensitive point of view that typifies Dr. Chava Shelhav’s work with children.

In working with infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities, I use my movement knowledge. This helps me to make the picture of the child’s functioning more complete and therefore I get better result.

In addition, I work with a para-medical staff that includes both physiotherapists and speech therapists. The addition of the Child’Space Method to the therapeutic team-work is significant to the continuing progress of each infant’s development and well-being.

During the years, as a student and as a teacher of the method, I met many curious people who came from various professional backgrounds. Starting from a retired cop, up until an end public relations woman. Each one came with his professional knowledge, which contributed to the professional knowledge he learned during the training, and made him a wonderful practitioner in the Child’Space-Shelhav Method.

Orly Gat
Israel, March 2017

Occupational Therapist MSc
Certified Child’Space Practitioner
Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner
Shelhav- Child’Space Method Co-trainer