Father and son walk safer with help of alumna

Jun 28, 2022

With the help of alumna Rachael Barnette, OTD’21, her 9-year-old patient and his father now walk a little easier across a busy intersection.

Featured Testimonial About Creighton University

Image of Rachael Barnette with Ben and Brad Smith at the crosswalk.

You never know how you’re going to be called to help.

Want to support future OT alumni like Rachael Barnette? You can make a gift to Occupational Therapy scholarships today.

* * *

By Micah Mertes

Nine-year-old Ben Smith was worried about his dad.

Ben’s father, Brad Smith, is legally blind due to a genetic disease. Most days, Brad has to cross a busy intersection alone on his way to pick Ben up from school. This weighed on Ben because the crosswalk didn’t have an audible signal for the visually impaired.

​  Rachael Barnette, Ben Smith and Brad Smith at the crosswalk.
Rachael Barnette, Ben Smith, Brad Smith and Ames traffic supervisor Brad Becker at the crosswalk.

One day, Ben shared his worries with his occupational therapist Rachael Barnette, OTD’21, at Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy in Ames, Iowa. Rachael — who had been working with Ben on improving his handwriting skills — saw in Ben’s loving concern for his father the perfect motivating tool.

She told Ben he could write a letter to the City of Ames asking if they would put in an audible signal to make the crosswalk safer both for his father and everyone else. Ben wrote a few drafts, and he and Rachael sent the letter to the city.

To their surprise, they received a response the next day. Ames’ traffic supervisor, Brad Becker, told Ben that he would get to work on making the audible signal happen. Some weeks later, Ben, his father, the occupational therapist and the helpful city employee met at the intersection to use the newly audible crosswalk for the first time.

The story — feel-good and civic-minded — made the local news.

Rachael Barnette has been with Kinetic Edge full-time since last summer, after doing her rotations there. She works exclusively with children and their families. Stories like Ben’s, she says, show what this is all about. To help someone learn and grow, you have to really know them. You have to know their hopes, their fears, what they hold most dear.

Rachael Barnette
Rachael Barnette

“The most important part of anything I do is building that relationship,” Rachael says. “Usually, for a lot of kiddos, our first few sessions aren’t focused on our goals but in building a relationship so they can trust me. If I seem like a stranger to them, they’re not going to feel like this is a safe place to try and sometimes fail while they’re learning challenging skills.”

Every day is another opportunity to care for the whole person, Rachael says, a skill and value she honed in the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions. After Creighton, easing into her role at Kinetic Edge felt natural.

“Within OT, we just had so many opportunities for hands-on experience at schools, hospitals and nursing homes,” she says. “You can’t teach someone in a classroom how to be empathetic and how to build relationships with people. It takes a lot of practice.

“Our professors, who have a lot of real-world experience themselves, really emphasized that. You never know how you’re going to be called to help these families.”

Take Ben and his father. Rachael uses the same crosswalk Ben and his father use. But before Ben mentioned it, she never noticed the lack of an audible signal. Every day, patients like Ben help her see the world a little more clearly.

“I’m deeply grateful to him and every other person who has made me a better provider and a better person.”

Ben and Brad at the crosswalk

Want to support future OT alumni like Rachael Barnette? You can make a gift to Occupational Therapy scholarships today.