By Deb Silverthorn
For Robin Abels, playing at work is the work. The pediatric occupational therapist is in her eighth year of private practice, with most of her students between ages 3 and 9.
“My job, which I don’t think of as a job at all, is that I get to play with kids. All day, I play and it doesn’t get better than this,” said Abels, of Kids Rock Pediatric OT. She brings the practice to schools and homes to meet the needs of her students. “My goal is for children to learn, and maintain, skills they’ll use all their lives while having a good time.”
As the pandemic brought her in-school support visits to a halt, Abels transitioned to online programming so her students wouldn’t miss a session. Still providing tele-therapy when requested, she is meeting her students on their turf — at home — always masked and meeting safety protocols.
“I was very worried last March about how I’d be able to meet the kids’ needs but we did it and they weren’t compromised,” said Abels, who meets most of her students virtually once a week. “It was different, and there was a learning curve, but we made it through and, happily, I’ve picked up a number of new referrals.”
“‘Miss Robin’ is sooo much fun and I love her,” said 6-year-old Will Goode. “I love to paint with marshmallows and do Bubble Wrap art and animal Jenga. She helps me a lot and now I love writing.”
From Goode’s mother Samantha, Abels’ report card is all aces. As with all of her students, Abels coordinates with her students parents, and teachers, making whatever accommodations appropriate to support the child at home and at school.
“Will was 4 ½ with the motor skills of an 18-month-old. He’s been working with her, first on campus and now home for a year, and I can’t imagine where he’d be without her. The feedback from his teachers is always positive,” said Goode, who was referred to Abels by her son’s neuro-psychologist. “He adores her and there’s nothing about what she does that’s intimidating to him. He knows he ‘can’ because of ‘Miss Robin.’”
A native of Stamford, Connecticut, Abels is the daughter of Jessie and Millie of blessed memory, and the sister of Jonathan. She graduated from Southern Connecticut State University, and later earned a master’s degree in special education from the University of North Texas. It was there that she met her future wife, Karen Weiller-Abels, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology.
The couple, together now for more than 40 years, are the parents of Ethan, 27, who attended the Ann and Nate Levine Academy, and Emmie, 21 who went to the preschool at Congregation Beth Torah. Longtime Carrollton residents, they have been members of congregations Anshai Torah, Beth El Binah, Temple Emanu-El and Temple Shalom.
Early in her career, Abels worked for the Association of Retarded Citizens and the Denton State School (now the Denton State Supported Living Center).
In 1990, after learning more about the field of occupational therapy, Abels returned to Texas Woman’s University where, during her rotation schedule, she quickly learned pediatrics was her path.
In 2013, after a 28-year career mostly with the Richardson school district, Abels decided to step out on her own. Her garage is stacked with supplies: games, books, art supplies, mazes and more, her traveling case one that many of her students can’t wait to help her carry in.
“I tell the kids what we ‘have to’ work on, but I allow them freedom to choose what they want to do to get there,” said Abels. “Dot-to-dots, silly sentences, games … I can make almost any activity match our goal. It’s easier when it’s something they want to do and not a chore.”
Sheryl Feinberg, early childhood director at Levine Academy for 12 years and at Temple Emanu-El for seven, has seen Abels in action as a parent and therapist, and taken guidance from her as a mentor.
“In everything she does, Robin imparts knowledge, care and absolute consideration. There’s nothing she doesn’t give her all to,” said Feinberg. “Her personality overflows always with a positive outlook. From Robin, there’s always a ‘can-do.’ If she doesn’t know it yet, she’ll find it and she turns everything into a teachable moment.”
To reach Kids Rock Pediatric OT call 214-738-3360.