Maude Le Roux is the next Integrative Education presenter featured in our Speaker Spotlight series. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Maude and learn more about her unique journey to becoming an occupational therapy practitioner (OTP) and where that journey has led her since.
A Unconventional Start
Maude was born and raised in South Africa. As a high school student, she described herself as a “rebel at heart.” She had no idea what career she wanted to pursue, and when encouraged to make a choice by her vocational counselor, her only goal was to not choose what others thought she should choose. She quickly pushed off suggestions of becoming a doctor because she felt like her math scores were not high enough. She also refused to look into teaching (because her father wanted her to become a teacher) and nursing (because her mother was a nurse). Finally, her vocational counselor provided her with three different pamphlets and encouraged Maude to take them home and look them over. The pamphlets covered three careers: speech-language pathology, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Once again, her rebel heart took over, and rather than taking the pamphlets home, she decided to choose one at random right then and there. Her finger fell on the occupational therapy (OT) pamphlet and she applied and got accepted into an OT program, knowing absolutely nothing about what OT was. While Maude describes this story as “embarrassing” she also feels that God directed this decision and helped guide her to and through the profession she was meant to pursue.
Early Career and Journey to America
While Maude is now well-known for her work in pediatrics, it took quite some time and a few bumps in the road for her to land in that specialty area. Maude’s first roles out of OT school were in psychiatric care working with individuals with schizophrenia, depression, and substance abuse disorders. After five years of working in this area, Maude began to feel discouraged by the lack of long-term success she was seeing in her patients and the high rate of patients returning for additional care. She didn’t feel fulfilled in this work and made the decision to leave the field of OT to pursue other career options.
After bouncing around between various jobs for nine years, Maude came across an opportunity to move to the United States and work for a travel OT agency. She saw it as a great chance to travel and enjoyed the next year working in various skilled nursing facilities throughout the US. After that first year, her agency offered her an opportunity to work for another year as well as get a green card. Her green card application process ended up taking seven years and during that time her career path was once again influenced by her Christian faith. Maude explains that while she was awaiting her green card in the mid-1990s, God woke her up to the area of pediatrics.
A Shift to Pediatrics
During Maude’s time with the travel OT agency, a large shift in Medicare occurred that led to the termination of several travel contracts, including her own. She felt at a loss, being in the middle of her green card application process, and no longer having a place to live as all of her previous housing had been provided by her contracted employers. Maude and her husband used this unexpected gap in employment and housing as an opportunity to travel the US in their van which they converted into a camper. Luckily during this time of transition, Maude’s company began to shift into the area of pediatrics and she accepted her first school-based job after a chaotic interview in a roadside phone booth. Knowing next to nothing about OTs role in pediatrics, or even what an IEP was, Maude and her husband moved to West Virginia where she joined a very supportive educational team and fell in love with her new role.
After her initial school contract, Maude continued to work for various schools across the country before being offered a clinical director position within her company in Pennsylvania where she supervised various school contracts. Eventually, Maude felt a need to serve children in a more personal and effective way. Once again, she looked to God for guidance and soon after began seeing children in her own private practice.
A Total Approach
Maude’s private practice had humble beginnings. In 2001, she opened A Total Approach in the basement of an old, dilapidated home that she and her husband, Charl, had recently purchased. Charl worked to build a therapy gym in the large basement space fully equipped with trampolines, swings, and ziplines. As the practice grew and added additional therapists, Charl took over the business side of A Total Approach and the practice relocated into its current space. Practitioners at A Total Approach offer in-depth assessments as well as a wide variety of intervention methods including: Tomatis Sound Therapy, Interactive Metronome, DIR/Floortime, ReadLS, The Learning Breakthrough Program, Forbrain, SOUNDSORY, Reflex Integration, Sandplay Therapy and PROMPT.
Maude Le Roux Academy
Maude openly admits that she was not a good student and that her love of learning did not develop until much later in her career. Eventually, she got to a point where she was taking a new course every month and trying to learn absolutely everything she could in order to better serve the children. Maude’s strong affinity for learning and research led to her growth in the area of educating others and eventually the birth of the Maude Le Roux Academy in 2019. This jump into education has afforded Maude the opportunity to travel the world and form connections and collaborations with many others in the field. One of her most impactful collaborations came through ATTACh (The Association for Training on Trauma and Attachment in Children) and her work with Joanne Kennedy, Pam Meredith, and Eadoin Breathnach to develop an OT track within ATTACh. Maude now serves on the board of ATTACh and has worked to bring together other practitioners including Sheila Frick, Teresa May-Benson, Kim Barthel, Shelley Mannell, and Tina Champagne. This solely volunteer work has allowed for the development of a three level OT certification model within ATTACh.
Words of Wisdom
Before concluding our discussion, Maude shared two final pieces of wisdom she has learned from her years of experience. First, she provided the message that “you as an occupational therapist have the power to facilitate a child to want to learn.” She was quick to point out that OTPs are not educators, but instead we are facilitators and we indeed have a great deal of power to facilitate learning in children. Second, Maude shared that “every time I see a child I wonder, what does he see when he looks at me? Does he see me as somebody that’s going to ask him to go through his paces or does he see me as somebody who is going to hold him safe?” She went on to explain that each child enters your therapy space with the baggage from where they were before and that the learning and integration cannot happen until they have relaxed in your space and presence.
If you would like to learn more from Maude including how OTPs can play a key role in reading development in children, be sure to check out her fascinating course through Integrative Education (IE), Reading Proficiency: Supporting Success from an OT’s Perspective, to be released in September 2022 on-demand Currently available to purchase through IE and taught by Maude is a 16-contact hour course, The Complex Intersection of ADHD, Sensory Processing, and Dysgraphia: Assessment and Intervention Strategies.