The Art of Pyrography in OT!

Dan Kaminski, Graduate student at Eastern Michigan University

A fitting follow-up to the mini-lathe is another low-tech intervention that uses natural materials and is relatively inexpensive to pursue. We had the pleasure of having Dan Kaminski from Eastern Michigan University as a level I fieldwork student in 2018. He didn’t mention his interest and skill in wood burning. I learned about his talent through a chance conversation with his program director. Thanks to Dan, our students have another option in our OT lab to help them reach academic and pre-vocational goals. OT students should consider sharing their individual skills and talents with their fieldwork supervisors. You never know what might become a fixture in a therapy department long after you graduate. Without further ado, Dan has agreed to share photos and his personal journey with wood burning, a unique and rewarding occupation! Interested in learning more and have questions? Contact us!

Teaching a valued personal skill to someone else provides the space to share in the excitement of exploring a new experience, the opportunity for growth in a new hobby, and the chance to pass along the enjoyment of that skill to another person.  This experience is enriching for both the person learning the new skill as well as for the person teaching it.  I have been able to enact both sides of this experience in regards to the hobby of wood burning.  The skill of wood burning was shared with me by my grandpa when I was around 8 years old.  While I was not old enough to participate in the activity myself at that age, I was allowed to watch my grandpa in amazement as he used his wood burner to detail the different woodworking projects he had created.  As I got older, my grandpa began to teach me how to safely and effectively utilize the techniques of the craft.  Memories of the time spent with my grandpa learning this skill, as well as the smell of the burning wood, are with me to this day. 

I recently had the opportunity to take this skill passed down to me from my grandpa and transfer it into a therapeutic application.  Interning as a Level 1 occupational therapy fieldwork student at Warren Woods Tower High School, I was assisted in developing a therapeutic occupation-based intervention, utilizing wood burning, that was adaptable to varying students’ abilities and goals.  This turned out to be a very rewarding experience for me, being able to pass along this personally meaningful skill.  When applied in the context of occupational therapy, wood burning proved to target many of the different desired areas of development for the student population it was used with.  Students were able to learn skills relating to safety during the activity, such as impulse control, following directions, careful handling of equipment, and patience.  Other skills that were embedded in the activity translated directly to some of the functional skills needed by students in the classroom.  In learning how to produce a consistently pleasing product, students had to learn force modulation when using the wood burner, pacing throughout the process, effective grip strength, functional hand writing positioning, and endurance throughout the task.  The development of all of these skills was facilitated by the students’ motivation to learn this new and exciting occupation.  This experience for me is proof that the sharing of personal talents with others stands to benefit everyone involved.

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