What is occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on the individual’s occupation or activities of daily living.
Believe it or not, infants, toddlers, and young children have occupations. The primary occupations of a child include activities that support their health, well-being, and development.
Pediatric occupational therapists work with children and their caregivers to promote active engagement in activities that are meaningful to them.
Common Diagnoses Pediatric Occupational Therapists Treat:
Fine motor skill delays
Social-emotional skill deficits
Birth injuries and defects
How can occupational therapy help my child?
The following table gives a glimpse of what skills can be addressed with occupational therapy and the daily activities that will improve in return!
Fine motor strength for grasping and releasing
Handwriting Manipulation of feeding utensils
Management of feelings of frustration, diffuse anger, and impulsivity
Gross motor coordination
Increased handwriting speed & legibility
Focus & social skills
Attention to tasks
Playing with others
Did you know?
Occupational therapy also evaluates your child’s need for adaptive equipment.
Wheelchairs, splints, bathing equipment, dressing devices, and communication aids are a part of the whole picture in improving quality of life and promoting functional independence.
We are happy to facilitate the process of obtaining any necessary adaptive equipment for our families.
Does my child need occupational therapy?
Check out these categories to identify if your child is having difficulty in any area. If you answer yes to any of the items, contact us today for a free screening.
Negotiating the spacing and sizes of letters
Visual tracking and crossing midline
Finding objects among other objects
Copying from the board or another paper
Concept of right and left
Copying shapes or letters
Poor ball skills
Developmental milestones not being reached i.e. sitting, crawling, and walking
Not learning at an age-appropriate level
Poor development of age-appropriate play and social skills
Difficulty transitioning between tasks and activities
Manipulating toys and puzzles
Grasping writing utensils
Utilizing age-appropriate feeding utensils and cups
Fastening zippers, buttons, tying shoelaces
Coloring, drawing, tracing, pre-writing shapes
Oral motor function
Difficulty drinking from a straw at an age-appropriate time
Excess liquid or food loss from mouth when drinking or chewing
Excessive pickiness when eating
Eating only certain types or textures of food
Meet our Occupational Therapists
Stacy Kozlowski, OTR/L
Stacy is a licensed pediatric occupational therapist with over 20 years of experience in the areas of developmental disabilities, physical dysfunction, environmental modifications, sensory processing disorder and feeding. As an occupational therapist, Stacy believes it is vitally important to treat client’s psychological and emotional well-being, as well as their physical needs. She is passionate about her role in helping children overcome adversity, and is always inspired by the tenacity of the human spirit. It is truly gratifying to be a part of the healing process, or the process of watching a child develop and acquire new skills. Whether a child is challenged physically, mentally or emotionally, being able to analyze, identify and implement techniques that result in positive change is deeply humbling. It could be as simple as providing equipment to a child with increased muscle tone that enables them to self feed, or training caregivers on a sensory diet that increases a child’s ability to participate in family mealtimes or attend social gatherings, but to many families it is anything but simple, it’s life-changing. It is immensely rewarding to be a part of that process. Stacy began her career working with children and adults, and supporting families recover and regain function following traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and burns. The opportunity to work closely alongside a diverse team of medical professionals was invaluable to her growth as a therapist. As gratifying as she found working with children in the acute stages of illness and injury, she found her greatest assets were helping adapt and modify physical, social and emotional barriers for children with developmental disabilities to gain purposeful connections in their communities. As an OT for United Cerebral Palsy in NYC, with extensive training in community integration and adaptive equipment, Stacy was chosen to direct the design and renovation of a simulated training apartment for people with disabilities. The apartment became a platform to train children and young adults how to access their home environment, focusing on environmental modifications and adaptive strategies that allowed them to live as independently as possible, with emphasis on their abilities. Following the renovation, she managed the UCP/NYC orthotics and bracing clinic, working alongside the physiatrist and orthotist to fit children with customized orthoses and adaptive equipment to maximize their functional independence. After moving to North Carolina in 2009 with her family, Stacy has been dedicated to integrating her passion for universal accessibility by helping children and their families harness their inner strength, while working with children in diverse environments. She is driven by a desire to promote accessibility and community integration for children with physical and emotional challenges, while promoting self determination. Stacy has training in the areas of Neurodevelopmental Treatment, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, Handwriting Without Tears, Therapeutic Listening, Interactive Metronome, The Wilbarger Protocol, Sensory Integration and Meditation. Stacy also has extensive knowledge of Applied Behavior Analysis, integrating sensory based strategies with behavior based interventions for optimal progress and goal attainment. Stacy is also trained in the AEIOU Systematic Approach to Pediatric Feeding, the Merry Mealtime Guide, the Safe and Sound Protocol, and is SOFFI certified. She has been happily married to her husband John for 15 years, and they are the proud parents of 3 daughters.
Jenny Bednar, COTA/L
Jenny is a licensed, certified occupational therapy assistant. Jenny graduated from Virginia Tech University receiving her Bachelors of Science in Human Development with a focus in Childhood and Adolescence. Jenny knew she always wanted work with children even from a young age. She further pursed her education by attending Baltimore County Community College receiving her Associates Degree as an Occupational Therapy Assistant in 2015. Jenny has a passion for working with children and their families. She believes parent participation and collaboration is vital in therapy. Jenny has experience working in different pediatric settings including schools, pre-schools, daycares, and private practice. Beginning her career working in a private practice, Jenny’s population included ages 3-21 with various disorders including Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Visual Perceptual and Fine Motor Deficits, Sensory Processing Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, Feeding Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, and Learning Disabilities. From there, Jenny worked in a public separate day school treating medically fragile children and adolescents with Cerebral Palsy, Visual Impairments, and other genetic disorders. It was there that Jenny learned that the little moments of success are indeed big moments and should be celebrated! Jenny has a passion for finding the just right challenge during therapy sessions while always making the child feel successful. Jenny enjoys bringing creativity, messy play, movement, patience, and energy to her treatment sessions. Jenny and her husband just moved to Cary and are enjoying exploring the outdoors with their dog. Outside of work, Jenny enjoys biking, traveling, art, and spending time with family and friends.
Gina Campbell COTA/L
Gina is a highly skilled and trained Occupational Therapy Assistant. She graduated in 2004 from Charles Stewart Mott Community College with an Associate in Applied Science degree, specializing in Occupational Therapy, and has been working in the field as a COTA/L ever since. As a therapist, and as a mom to 3 adult children, one with Autism, Gina is passionate about working with children, to help them access their inner strengths, so they can reach their fullest potential. Gina firmly believes that trust and commitment should be the foundation of any relationship. She is highly aware how important the therapeutic relationship is to functional progress, helping children feel safe and empowered to step outside their comfort zone. Gina has worked extensively in the public school systems in Michigan and North Carolina, helping children to adapt to their environment and to achieve their classroom goals. Gina has also worked in a pediatric outpatient setting, working with a variety of diagnoses including sensory processing disorder, Autism, Down Syndrome, developmental delays, visual processing disorders, and behavior management. Gina has experience working with young and middle-aged adults with brain injuries in various settings, and she understands the unique presentation of everyone with a brain injury. It is always her commitment to recognize the strengths of her clients and adapt client centered treatment plans. Gina believes in a holistic approach when treating the child, actively involving the family to maximize follow through and carry over. Gina has an interest in sensory processing disorders, Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Gina lives in Sanford with her husband of 32 years, along their 2 dogs. Gina enjoys spending as much time as she can with her family, loves to read, loves to dance, and love a new adventure!
Sarah Davis, MS, OTR/L
Sarah is a licensed and registered occupational therapist who is passionate in working with children and their families in order to meet each individual child’s needs in supporting them to learn and grow. She is a proud graduate of Utica College (now Utica University) located in upstate New York where she graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science in Health Studies, followed by her Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy. Sarah knew that she wanted to become a pediatric occupational therapist when she had the opportunity to travel abroad to the Dominican Republic during her graduate school fieldwork. In her time abroad, Sarah had the opportunity to learn and develop her clinical skills working with children with developmental, physical and intellectual disabilities alongside other occupational therapists within pediatric residential, outpatient, and school-based settings. She also presented at the Asociación Dominicana de Rehabilitación conference where she discussed fine motor skill development and treatment strategies with teachers, caregivers, and occupational therapy colleagues. Sarah found that it was extremely beneficial to learn and share knowledge regarding occupational therapy evaluation techniques and treatment strategies with colleagues from other cultures. Sarah is originally from upstate New York where she was born and raised in the Adirondack Mountains. She and her husband moved to Raleigh in 2018 when Sarah began working as an occupational therapist with the Wake County Public School System. In her 5 years of school-based experience, Sarah served students ages 3-21 with varying abilities. She gained experience working with students with cognitive, physical and emotional disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, Developmental Delays, Down Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Intellectual Disabilities, Sensory Processing Disorders, Seizure disorders, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and Visual Impairments. Sarah resides in Clayton with her husband, newborn daughter, and French bulldog named Jarvis. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, visiting family and friends, exploring the Raleigh area, attending Carolina Hurricane games, and completing home improvement projects. Fun Fact: During her time at Utica College, Sarah competed in Track & Field as a jumper. She holds many of the University’s indoor and outdoor track records, and was a two time nationally recognized All-American in the triple jump. Sarah was inducted into her Alma Mater’s Hall of Fame last spring!
Ashton Dorsey, MS, OTR/L
Ashton is a licensed occupational therapist with diverse experience providing individualized care to children and their families. She graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science followed by a Masters of Occupational Therapy from Tennessee State University. Ashton has spent time working with adults in a variety of settings, but has always been passionate about helping children and families overcome different challenges. She has experience working with children with Autism, Down Syndrome, fine and gross motor weaknesses, sensory processing disorder, and executive dysfunction. Ashton began her interest in occupational therapy as a volunteer with equine-assisted therapy where she developed an understanding of the physical, mental, emotional, and social challenges children face and how to work through movement and play to provide an environment for each child to thrive. Ashton is a Raleigh, NC native currently living in Smithfield with her husband and their dog, Brewer. In her free time she enjoys live music, sporting events including Carolina Hurricanes and Appalachian State Mountaineers, and spending time with family.
Janine Fogarty, COTA/L
Janine is a licensed, certified occupational therapy assistant with over nine years of experience working in various areas of developmental disabilities. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at York College in New York City. Janine worked in the city as a Medicaid Service Coordinator, connecting children and their families to well-deserved services. Soon after, she obtained her Applied Associate’s Degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant at Suffolk County Community College in New York. Witnessing the impact Occupational Therapy can have on someone’s life firsthand, is what drew Janine to this career. She finds joy in the little things in life because they are all parts of the bigger picture. She believes in considering the whole person and discovering what motivates them. By doing so, she can create interventions that are encouraging and at the “just right challenge.” Being able to maximize a child’s capacity to play, be included and grow to their full potential is truly fulfilling. Contributing to the process and seeing a difference, not only humbles her but fuels her to explore and learn more. She has experience in home and community-based settings working with children with autism, cerebral palsy, sensory processing disorders, developmental delays, and more. She has worked both in the school setting as a teacher’s assistant and a respite worker. She has experience using communication boards, transition pictures, various devices, interactive metronome, vibe plate, weighted vests and more. In response to the pandemic, she helped create, launch, and facilitate a telehealth program for children. Janine is a volunteer Program Director at a summer camp for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. She has been involved with the organization since 2011. With her background in sports and fitness, she develops and facilitates the sports activities for the children with the proper modifications. She is also a part of the leadership team and helps with planning throughout the year. She feels lucky to be able to help provide this experience for the children so that they could do what is most important in their lives, to be a kid. Janine and her husband recently moved to the area to be closer to family. Outside of work and volunteering, she enjoys going on adventures, exploring new places, playing board games, and trying new foods!
C. Allyson Harman, MS, OTR/L
Ally is a licensed occupational therapist who received her Bachelors of Science in Education at NC State University and received her Masters of Occupational Therapy at Radford University Carilion, in Virginia. Ally is a North Carolina native who has spent most of her life living in the Raleigh area until she moved to Princeton in 2020 with her husband. Her passion for occupational therapy started in college when she was working at Victory Junction, a camp for kids with medical conditions. Working with the children never felt like work. Ally witnessed the fun these children had challenging themselves while participating in exhilarating activities and building confidence and courage they would carry with them into their everyday lives. Ally has two and a half years of hospital experience working with patients who have experienced trauma, orthopedic surgeries, and cardiac complications; and, has always been a strong and encouraging advocate for her patients. One of those years she focused on acute and intensive care pediatrics. She is passionate about working as a team with each child, their caregivers, and other supporting systems, to help each child reach their personal goals and milestones. INSPIRED is a word she often feels from the children she works with and Ally strives to give that same inspiration back to them; to make therapy both liberating and fun so children can shine and continue to build their confidence and success. During her spare time Ally enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter. She loves the outdoors, conversations by a campfire, and is always up for a time with horses or hopping on a snowboard. Take note, she’s also happy to get new podcast, movie, or book recommendations too.
Shaina Kale, COTA/L
Shaina is a graduate of Pitt Community College with a A.A.S. in Occupational Therapy and a Master's in Healthcare Administration from Louisiana State University Shreveport. She currently has over 12 years of rehab experience with 5 years’ experience as a COTA working in the pediatric setting with a desire to help children and families achieve their goals through engaging learning opportunities and coaching metho ds using a family centered practice model. Shaina is creative and bubbly, is CPR certified through the American Heart Association, has a strong clinical background and is comfortable serving children and families with multiple diagnosis including: •ADD/ADHD •Autism (ASD) •Cerebral Palsy (CP)/ Musculoskeletal concerns •Developmental Delays •Feeding dysfunctions •Gross/Fine Motor Skills •Genetic Conditions •Prematurity concerns •Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) As a part of her continued growth and desire to pour into the field of OT, she became a Fieldwork Educator in 2020 just as the pandemic began and quickly had to learn how to get creative not only in providing therapeutic services to clients but also in teaching others how to provide therapeutic services in a non-traditional way (Telehealth). Because of that experience, she has learned how to organize and create projects with well-coordinated and performance-driven strategies while continuing with excellent relationship-building and planning abilities. She is a Certified Allied Health Instructor and an adjunct teacher at a community college in the OTA program, supporting and facilitating learning with current OTA students in the classroom setting. When Shaina is not working she loves to spend time with her husband and 2 boys. When they aren't at the baseball field, you can find her reading, participating in arts and crafts, drawing, listening to good music to find new artists or a combination of it all!
Meghan Machin, COTA/L
Meghan is a licensed, certified occupational therapy assistant. She graduated from Cortland State University with a Bachelor' of Science in Special Education. While teaching, Meghan first learned about Occupational Therapy and quickly realized it was her true calling. Meghan further pursed her education by attending Suffolk County Community College receiving her Associates Degree as an Occupational Therapy Assistant in 2015. Meghan has worked in a variety of pediatric settings where she treated populations of age 2-21 with various disorders such as Developmental Delay, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD/ADD, Visual Perceptual and Fine Motor Deficits, Opposition Defiant Disorder and Down Syndrome. Meghan has some experience with specialized tools such as Weighted Vest, Proprioceptive Vest, and Therapeutic Listening. Meghan has a passion for working with children and understands the value of working closely with their families. She believes parent collaboration is a vital part of the therapeutic team. Meghan and her husband just moved to Clayton with their one-year-old son from Long Island, New York. They are enjoying exploring their new surroundings. Outside of work, Meghan enjoys traveling, music, finding a good coffee spot, trying new restaurants, and spending time with family and friends.
Maria Parker, COTA/L
Maria graduated from North Carolina State University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Biological Sciences. Following graduation, Maria attended Pitt Community College and received her Associates Degree as an Occupational Therapy Assistant. Maria has worked in healthcare since graduating high school in a variety of settings and capacities, with different populations, but has always had a passion for working with children. Her main focus is helping children and their families to be as independent as possible to enable them to participate in everyday activities. She loves helping individuals grow and reach their full potential, and helping to empower them to overcome adversity. Outside of work Maria enjoys spending time with family and friends. She enjoys exploring and experiencing new adventures together. In her spare time Maria enjoys reading and listening to crime podcasts.
Amber Pinksy, MS, OTR/L
Amber is a Pirate Alumni who received a Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy and a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreational Therapy from East Carolina University. After receiving her graduate degree in 2015, Amber worked as an OT in an inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee with adults recovering from strokes and traumatic brain injuries. Amber gained extensive experience problem-solving solutions to support patients’ independence with activities of daily living (dressing, bathing, toileting, etc.) in addition to instrumental activities of daily living (medication management, cooking, driving, etc.) When Amber & her husband relocated to Raleigh, NC in 2016, she decided to pursue a career in pediatrics, a lifelong passion of hers. Amber worked for Wake County Public Schools for 5.5 years, serving students age 3-15 with a variety of needs and abilities. She managed a caseload of 40-55 students, gaining experience working with children with developmental delays, learning disabilities, cancer, Autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, Prader-Willi syndrome, dyslexia, dysgraphia, intellectual disabilities, ADHD, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, conduct disorder, and sensory processing disorder. Amber has extensive experience teaching the building blocks for handwriting, including facilitation of in-service trainings for fellow therapists, co-workers, and families served. Learning without tears is one of Amber’s favorite multi-sensory interventions for facilitating handwriting development. Some of Amber’s favorite opportunities as a school-based OT include: 1. advocating for students’ unique needs by creating customize IEP plans with the team, 2. adapting their physical learning environments, and 3. collaborating with parents, teachers, physical therapists, and speech therapists to ensure carryover of valuable skills learned in therapy. In addition to working as a school-based OT, Amber gained experience in Early Intervention with a private OT company part time (after school hours and during school breaks). Amber served children ages 6 months - 10 years old, providing therapy in-home and in daycare centers. One of Amber’s favorite things about working in early intervention was building therapeutic rapport with clients, family members, daycare teachers, and other service providers. Amber learned the importance of adaptability and creativity by utilizing toys/items within the children’s homes to provide a holistic approach to treatment. During this opportunity, Amber gained experience with developmental positioning, range of motion, and adaptive feeding techniques to support family mealtimes and quality of life. Amber is a proud mom to 3 beautiful kiddos, which include her daughter (3 years old) and twin boys (1 years old). Her favorite hobbies include going jogging and bike riding with her family, working out at the gym, reading anything by Kristin Hannah, baking, and taking their 9 year old labradoodle (Elsa) on walks. Amber is overjoyed to be on the talented Abil-OT team! She is very much looking forward to working with you and your family as your occupational therapist!
Staci Rightmyer, COTA/L
Staci is a licensed, certified occupational therapy assistant. She graduated from Pitt Community College where she gained experience in a variety of settings, but knew her heart was in pediatrics. Her passion is to provide kids new and exciting opportunities to learn and grow to their full potential. She believes in the collaboration between therapist and family and understands that it is fundamental to empowering the child and family. She also values the importance of advocating for the kids and families we serve while advocating for the profession in its entirety. In her free time Staci enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching movies, and doing anything arts and crafts
Anika Schuyler, COTA/L
Anika is a certified and licensed occupational therapy assistant with experience working in the pediatric outpatient setting. It is her passion to empower children to conquer their own world. Anika values working closely with families to provide the best outcome for the child. Anika spends her time outside of the office with her fiancé, at the gym or exploring the beautiful state of NC.
Mallory Secor, COTA/L
Mallory is a licensed, certified occupational therapy assistant with a deep passion for helping children reach their full potential. Mallory holds a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in indigenous studies from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Post-graduation, she pursued further education at Durham Technical Community College, obtaining an associate's degree as an occupational therapy assistant. Since graduating high school, Mallory has gained much knowledge by working with individuals of all ages and abilities. Mallory has a diverse healthcare background, spanning various settings and populations. However, her heart lies in working with children and their families. Mallory has learned the importance of using a family-centered approach to create the best environment for the child’s development and overall well-being. She is passionate about helping not only special needs children but their families as well. Mallory loves the pediatric setting because she enjoys showing her goofy side, as well as bringing optimism and joy to situations
Brittany Smith, COTA/L
Brittany is a highly skilled and trained Occupational Therapy Assistant. As a therapist, and as a mom to 2 teenagers, Brittany is passionate about working with children, helping them access their inner strength and determination so they are able to reach their full potential. She firmly believes that trust and commitment should be the foundation of any relationship. She is keenly aware how important the therapeutic relationship is to functional progress, helping children feel safe and empowered to step outside their comfort zone. Brittany has volunteered extensively in the public school system, helping children to adapt to their environment and to achieve their classroom goals. Brittany has diverse experience working with adults and children with brain injuries in various settings, and understands the unique presentation of each individual with a brain injury. It is always her commitment to recognize the strengths of her clients and adapt client centered treatment plans. She has also worked in the school environment as well as outpatient pediatric setting, working with a variety of diagnoses including sensory processing disorder, Autism, Down Syndrome, and developmental delays. Brittany believes in a holistic approach when treating the child, actively involving the family to maximize follow through and carry over. Brittany has an interest in sensory processing disorders, Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Brittany lives in Bailey with her 14-year-old daughter Jocelyn and 13-year-old son Landon along with a house full of animals including 2 dogs, 3 cats and a feisty hedgehog. She has volunteered in her children’s schools, with the church and participates every year in the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” as this is a passion of hers. Brittany enjoys spending as much time as she can with her extended family and friends on the boat at the lake or venturing out for whatever activity they pick for the day.
Michela Vitagliano, MS, OTR/L
Michela is a licensed occupational therapist that attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies concentrating on Global Health before attending East Carolina University where she received a Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy. Michela grew up in Wilmington, NC, but is currently living in Greenville, NC with her fiancé and their dog, Lani. Michela and her family will be relocating to the triangle in the coming months. In her free time, Michela enjoys getting outside to soak up the sunshine, traveling to new places, listening to music, and spending time with family and friends. Michela’s first experience with occupational therapy was in her senior year of college when she volunteered at an outpatient pediatric therapy clinic. It was here that she was able to witness firsthand the positive outcomes of quality therapy services. Michela now has experience working with children with various diagnoses in both inpatient and outpatient settings. She is passionate about helping children be successful in the face of challenges, reach their personal goals, and build courage and confidence through providing family-centered and evidence-based therapy services. Michela is thrilled to be joining the Abil-OT team and is looking forward to working with you and your child!