Elizabeth Foss is an Occupational Therapist who has been focused on therapy and support for people with Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. More recently, Elizabeth has gotten in touch with the ataxia community and she has been working enthusiastically on interesting and fun exercise programs.
Hello everyone! My name is Elizabeth Foss and I am an Occupational Therapist currently working both in the subacute rehabilitation and acute inpatient hospitalization settings. Throughout my career as an Occupational Therapist, I have had a passion for working with individuals with neurological conditions, and I have obtained specialty certifications in stroke rehabilitation and LSVT BIG for Parkinson’s Disease. Since Occupational Therapy focuses on regaining independence, I continued to pursue certifications in balance retraining to reduce falls and regain function.
Over the past eleven years, I’ve seen dramatic improvements during therapeutic interventions. Unfortunately, after patients are discharged from therapy, I witnessed a recurrent functional decline. This was because of a lack of resources for helping patients to maintain their gains through home exercise. It is for this reason that I created a YouTube channel “Little Steps Big Gains” with the vision of providing free home occupational therapy exercise programs, educational videos, and resources.
After creating my YouTube channel for my personal patients, I began to share it with various online support groups. My initial focus was on the caregiver, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s support groups when my little sister Allison Hilger (researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder and director of the CO Motor Speech Lab), suggested I reach out to the ataxia community. Since my training in ataxia was not as proficient as other conditions, I hesitated in what I could offer but was propelled by her testimony. “The ataxia community is wonderful. They are so engaging and inspirational… and seriously the best support groups I’ve worked with! There are also very few resources directly for ataxia so the community would really benefit from your exercise program.” With a Ph.D. in studying the effects of speech in neurological conditions, she shared her story of surprise in developing an unexpected passion for working with ataxia after interacting with the community. Her story intrigued me and therefore I reached out to an ataxia Facebook group.
Within the first day, I was welcomed and felt comfortable posting my first free exercise program- two Tai-Chi Inspired Balance Challenges. The positive responses were overwhelming. Within two days, I received my first personal email, a woman with ataxia thanking me for my personal time and a day later, I received my second. I was immediately inspired to give more.
Soon, however, my problem was no longer finding groups to share knowledge, but increasing my knowledge of ataxia to share with groups. For while my acute inpatient hospitalization experience provided intermediate experience, I needed more. Therefore, I turned to my four Occupational and Physical Therapy online educational subscriptions. Despite thousands of videos, however, only one was dedicated to ataxia. I listened to the two hours, reached out to thousands of online colleagues, started digging into the research, and cataloged any and all support group webinars. To my surprise, I found that the greatest resources for learning about ataxia were the individuals living with it.
As I continued my personal studies, the online community continued to inspire me. The individuals doing my exercise programs were determined despite any setbacks and my educational videos were received in open arms. Soon, my mornings, evenings, and weekends were being spent on my channel. However, this was a community that was worth it.
So now, here I am, continuing to learn and inspired to give. While my channel has a focus on neurological conditions, I am turning my attention to include ataxia as well. With the lack of resources, I’m discovering my own path, yet, I’ve learned that I’m not alone because the community has been by my side. For example, in creating an ataxia awareness video, I received a surplus of responses from individuals willing to share about their condition. While investigating oculomotor training, I recruited 50 individuals willing to try some exercises. I’m hoping that between my learning and the communities sharing, we can come together, for this is a community of truly inspirational individuals and I hope to provide more.
Thank you Elizabeth Foss for all your effort and contributions to the ataxia community. You are a great ally!
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