We had the good fortune of connecting with Hannah Durning and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Hannah, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I’ve been a pediatric occupational therapist now for over eight years and I’ve worked in a variety of settings ranging from outpatient clinics, to home health companies, to critical care and ICU hospital settings and with babies on their true day of birth, birthday through teenagers aging out of the public school system. In every place, I have felt there were pieces of my treatment that was missing. Maybe it is rooted in my background of social work and child development but I’ve never found a place to work where I felt I have been easily able to truly and fully use my clinical strengths to get the whole picture of why a child comes to see me. For example, in an outpatient setting, I may have a child come in with concerns of negative behavior outbursts but I”m not able to replicate the scenarios the family sees at home or the teachers are experiencing at school. Thus my support is often limited to “If this happens, try this”. Or when I worked for a home health company, I was limited to select treatment locations or specific types of interventions depending on school regulations, insurance companies, or equipment available. I wanted to create my business where I would have autonomy over where and how I can work with a family. In my private practice, I can really take time to experience, learn, and see the whole picture of what the child is experiencing and create treatment plans and home programs that fit that whole story. I can work at the root of the concerns; something I’ve learned I am really good at and that isn’t always common sense.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I officially started my private practice, Purposeful Play, in June 2020. While I had been pondering opening a practice for several years I had never taken the leap for one reason or another. However, in Spring 2020 when the clinic I was working at had to shut down, I decided there was no better time; life was pushing me to take a leap. It has not been easy. I’ve taught myself many new skills this past year from website design, to electronic medical record keeping, to marketing and licensing. I feel grateful to have friends and colleagues who have supported me along the way. And that I’ve been able to keep another part-time job which allows me the flexibility for learning curves and to take the time and create a practice that I’ve always dreamed of. I’ve worked with young children and families for over 20 years now. I really enjoy watching young children learn to explore their environment through movement and play. I am always so amazed at how the brain works. I once heard that if you see an OT working with a child and it appears they are just playing, you are watching magic happen. Occupational therapist design play to have a purpose. Thus, Purposeful Play Occupational Therapy was formed. In my private practice, I’m really excited to be able to work with children and families who are seeking out less traditional occupational therapy. I have a unique skill of being able to see a whole picture of what’s going on physically in their body or when attempting to interact with their environment. I am able to identify where challenges stem from and address the cause. I really love working with children from birth through teens with concerns varying from feeding challenges to decreased body awareness. Figuring out how we can rewire the brain to efficiently complete tasks is a very nerdy passion of mine! One of my foundational beliefs is that children innately are doing their very best and want to be “good”. Unfortunately, children who face neuro-challenges learn quite early in life that their best isn’t good enough for societies standards so they stop trying or give up. Children get labeled as “bad” and written off very quickly. Or they are called behavior children, or picky eaters when in reality they don’t have the foundational skills such as sensory processing or motor planning to successfully do what is being asked of them. I am able to use the whole family and the child’s community to address these concerns and create interventions that can be incorporated into their daily routines which in turn elicits greater follow through from families. One of my absolute favorite things to watch is a child realize they can be successful at a task and then their intrinsic motivation and self confidence start to sky rocket!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
oh man! this is not my forte! However, I do love to spend as much time outside as possible. So my favorite places outdoors are Hermann park, specifically I love to get inspiration from their gardens and learn what veggies are in season to grow in my own garden. Wandering around the trails at the Houston Arboretum is a little hidden gem, if you sit quietly there are many varieties of birds and armadillos foraging! And of course, currently outdoor patios for dining and happy hour are a must. You’ll find me at Hungry’s in Rice Village, Local foods on Kirby, or Backstreet Cafe to name a few. I enjoy visiting Urban Farmers Market and the Rice Village Farmers Market for produce and local gifts or just to take in live music and a community atmosphere.The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This is such a hard question, there have been so many people and books that have given me layers of confidence and skill over the years. Starting prior to my OT career, when I worked in a development center that was designed specifically for foster children. One of my takeaways from this place was their “rule” that we as teachers were not allowed to tell the children “no” unless it was a immediate safety concern. This might have been the first time in my life where I was prompted to and then had the intrinsic motivation to really look at and change how I interacted with the world. The philosophy behind the rule was that these children get told no innumerable times a day, and there were different ways to let them know they had choices. So that might look like: a child trying to climb up the slide and instead of “no, don’t climb up the slide” I might say “the slide is for going down, the stairs are for going up”. Right around this same time I was recommended the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. This is a great book for life, by the way, and while it’s written with children in mind, it’s guiding principles have changed how I try to interact and listen to everyone. In my OT career, I have a teacher and mentor who really opened my eyes to the neuroscience behind effective interventions. Maxine Haller with Kids Brain Tree in Fort Collins, CO. Her courses and subsequent mentorship in Foundations for Clinical Neuroplasticity changed how I approach my practice and I’ve seen many great results utilizing her methods. Currently in my life I have several friends and colleges who have supported and encouraged me unconditionally and who have reminded my why I chose to do this when I need reminding.

Website: Purposefulplayhouston.com

Instagram: @purposefulplayhouston

Linkedin: Hannah Durning

Image Credits

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