You’ve all seen the big blue bus driving around Tucker. Ever wonder who is driving that beast? It’s me! My name is Amity Stevens, I am a local pediatric occupational therapist and owner of OT on the Go and that bus is my office…I’ll get to that, but first a little about me and how I fell in love with the profession and created the best career ever!
My love for the special needs population stems from growing up with a younger sister with disabilities. While most teenagers were playing sports, hanging out with friends, making memories, I was home with whatever therapist was working with her that day. She had regular speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy and I LOVED being a part of her progress. Watching how much each of these people impacted her life, made me want to do the same for as many kids as possible. I worked really hard and got into college in my home state of Oklahoma, but that was not where I would end up. In July of 1995, my grandparents gave me the opportunity to move to Atlanta and I took it. I was lucky enough to have a support system and family here that helped me establish roots and start fresh. I took a year off, worked two jobs, and began under-grad school in 1996. I studied Health and Exercise Physiology while I waited to get into OT school. I absolutely loved the field and decided to complete my degree before moving forward. I knew this was something I could incorporate into my role as a therapist. Still working full-time, I graduated with BS from Kennesaw State and entered the Occupational Therapy program at Brenau University that Fall. Three years later (so a total of 9 collegiate years and multiple student loans), I was FINALLY going to have my dream job.
Yeah… not so fast. I took a job in the public school system and quickly realized that I was going to have to shift a lot of thinking and my idea of what “therapy” looked like. Meetings, no space to work, 20 minutes with each student, it was nothing like I had pictured. We worked in hallways, closets, corners of loud classrooms; anywhere we could have a quiet area. Although it was less than ideal, I loved my families, my colleagues, and the kids I worked with, so I stuck with it for 7 years. The best thing about this time were the relationships I built and the connections I still have with some of my first students and their families. (Shoutout to my Forsyth County families…you know who you are.)
Following the school system, I found myself in a clinical based setting that I absolutely loved! I worked in the clinic after school and provided therapy for students at local private schools during the day. In the clinic we had proper equipment, swings, a climbing wall- you name it, we had it! I was able to be creative, to get kids moving and to implement so many of my ideas. The progress we saw was amazing.
I also really enjoyed working in the private schools, but again, it came down to space and having the available equipment. We made do with what we had but needed space to provide even better therapy. In the five years I was there, it was the one thing that never improved.
After working in multiple therapeutic settings…public schools, private schools, clinics, homes, I found there was always one thing lacking. Space. I needed a proper area to provide therapy during the school day. And one night in 2014, I woke up with an idea. A crazy crazy CRAZY idea. After a few days of searching, I was the proud owner of the largest size school bus they make. I had the seats removed, installed padded flooring and walls and had her painted the brightest color I could find! Two months later a big blue Beast (that’s her name) rolled into my driveway, and we’ve been a team ever since.
This 40-foot mobile office is equipped with a fully functional sensory gym that allows me to provide services after school and at multiple private schools. Not only does this eliminate the need for parents to travel to therapy, it also gives me the ability to collaborate with teachers to provide the best support for my kids. Plus, who doesn’t want to play on a bus!!
So, what does a typical day in a therapy bus look like? During our sessions, we complete obstacle courses, work on a variety of therapeutic equipment to improve balance, coordination, agility and executive functioning skills. There is no desk on the bus, as I encourage movement over sitting, so we even practice handwriting on the windows. Every session is different. Every day is different. Because, as we know, every child is different. Not only do I get to incorporate my passion for fitness and exercise into my sessions, but we also work on social skills, sensory integration, and life skills every day. There isn’t anything we can’t do in The Beast!
In addition to my daily therapy services, I run a beach camp twice a year in Saint George Island,FL. We take up to 12 teens and young adults with special needs on a five-day trip to the island to relax with friends, make new friends, explore, and even go shark fishing! Because we do not simply “arrive” at the beach, we refer to these trips as our SGI Invasions. And that is exactly what 12 teens, 3 adults, and a therapy dog do, we invade (in a kind and very respectful manner of course). This camp has not only made an impact on our lives, but to so many on the island. I could not have done it without our friends Bud, Grayson, Pat and the SGI Christian Retreat Center that told me- “Come on! You and your kids are always welcomed here.” So we went and we went again and again. It has become my favorite and proudest OT on the Go activity. I am very excited that we will be invading for the twelfth time his Summer.
I also lead monthly hiking groups and camping trips to the mountains. Although I specialize in Autism, my groups also include kids (10+) and teens with ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia and Anxiety. These groups began as a way to keep kids connected and moving during that dreadful time in 2020. Covid really hit small businesses hard, especially those of us in healthcare, so I got creative. As an adult with ADHD and anxiety, I knew firsthand what some of my kids were going through, because I was going through it with them. It was hard. It was scary. But there was no quitting. I would never allow my kids to give up when things seem impossible, and I was not about to give up on something I worked so hard to build. Luckily, I have the best families and I am terrible at sitting, so we got moving and didn’t stop. When schools finally returned, I was the only one permitted on campus to provide services because I had the bus. My team was back. I was able to work safely and continue our therapy. It was the most “normal” part of the week for so many of my kids, and for me. I am so thankful for that crazy idea and allowing myself to dream really big.
While writing this, I was asked to include a “favorite memory” or a “story of success”, but I would need another 1500 words to even get started. I could tell you about Sam who began with me when he was 8 years old and is now finishing his second year of college. Or James that had such a hard time separating from his parents for even an hour for our social groups and now he’s attending weeklong camps. When Alaina and I have been working on emotional regulation and after 4 years she didn’t have a meltdown at a very important event when the outcome, by no fault of her own, was unexpected and disappointing. How Alex and I spend every one of his birthdays together, most recently his 19th. Maybe when one of my boys wrote and published a book, at age 16. And Hayden, my sweet Hayden, who has struggled socially, got on a stage at a restaurant and performed for his peers and strangers on one of our beach trips. I have too many favorite days and my kids work so hard every day to select just one success. But, what I can say is that I hope my legacy with this company will be the relationships I have built with these children and families, the confidence my kids have gained in themselves, and knowing they will be successful with or without me in the future.
Thank you for reading a small portion of my story. It’s not over and I can promise there will be many more adventures in the future. Afterall, I didn’t name my company OT on the Go for no reason…we’ve got places to go and I plan to do just that.
Amity Stevens, MS, OTR/L, CAS
Registered and Licensed Occupational Therapist Certified Autism Specialist American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Autism Exercise Specialist Certified Interactive Metronome Provider Certified Therapeutic Listening Provider Certified Handwriting Specialist