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Jo Jackson King

Occupational Therapist

Perth, WA

My name is Jo Jackson King. I love being an OT because our role is helping another person succeed in ‘doing, being, becoming and belonging to’ whatever puts them on a path to a meaningful life. That's rewarding all by itself - and added to that is the privilege of really getting to know another person.

After I graduated in 1995 my husband and I moved back to the family farm. My first OT job was working in nine shires just North of Perth alongside my mother Barbara (who is also an OT). Then, in 2000, the whole family (which now included our two sons Timu and Samai) moved to a pastoral property. There I began working as a Senior OT for the WA Country Health Service, as well as teaching my sons with the support of the School of the Air. After telling the story of the big family adventure of moving to the station in a series of broadcasts for ABC radio, I was asked by them to turn those stories into a book. This became the bestselling Station At Austin Downs (released in 2004 by ABC Books).

The editor of that book had two little girls. She and I talked a great deal about children. To my surprise she asked me to comprehensively synthesise the child development literature across all fields (psychology, education, OT etc) and write a book for parents. This took me six years, all of both mine and my mother’s OT experience and a university fellowship – in 2010 Raising The Best Possible Child was released by HarperCollins. It is used by teachers, occupational therapists and nurses as well as parents and I am often contacted by overseas and Australian readers with questions relating to their own children. In between writing these two books our youngest son Rafael was born.

I am passionate about evidence-based practice and my seeking for more information and skills is usually triggered by a client or client group with a different set of needs. My research includes reading, attending workshops, talking to experts, talking to colleagues and a great deal of listening to feedback from parents and teachers about what has worked best. Matching the evidence to the client often sparks a new idea about how to help - which I like to then document and share. Indeed, my writing and my OT practice inform each other.

Even my most recent book (Love In A Sunburnt Country, 2016) which doesn’t seem very ‘occupational therapy’ has added to my therapeutic toolbox. In addition to my books I have written and presented on a wide range of topics including Imaginative Play (https://www.theimaginationgames.com), Self-Regulation Skills, Evidence-Based Practice in Indigenous Communities (my husband is Indigenous and this is a real interest area for me), Primitive Reflex Integration, Attachment Science, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Engagement/Disengagement Body Language.

We have just moved again – this time to Gidgegannup, which is close to Midland. I began working with Patches-Paediatrics in August 2018 – mostly (but not only) working with children and families, particularly those with behavioural challenges and multiple diagnoses including ASD, ADHD, FASD and 2E. New clients, new setting, new colleagues – all of this means new opportunities for innovation!

Patches Speech Pathologist Dianne Raby and I have been using theatre collaboration rules as a metaphor for imaginative play/social skills in working with children and teenagers. This approach has a growing evidence base. We added another dimension to the group based on another set of evidence, which says that access to neurotypical peers is very helpful for children with ASD. The theatre games were provided by my Waapa-trained son Samai. The group was co-led by three teenage volunteers, all with theatre experience. Dianne’s three children and my youngest son were our ‘neurotypical’ participants. The vocabulary of collaboration, the skills in reading bodies and faces, of feeling the ‘energy’ of turntaking move around the group and the practice in building on other people’s ideas was put into practice in real life by some of our participants - just the outcomes we were hoping for!

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