I had the pleasure of interviewing Dani Kinsley, who has the unique and very cool job of developing therapy products for clinicians to use with their pediatric patients. How cool is that?!
In this interview, she discusses why she became an occupational therapist, how she started working in the therapy product development industry, which projects she’s worked on, how her compensation compares to direct patient treatment, and how other therapists can follow in her footsteps.
If you are an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist interested in developing products for a living, be sure to give this a read!
Question: Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
Sure! My name is Dani Kinsley, and I wear many hats (wife/mom/OT/editor/product developer/animal lover/book nerd/old Millennial/plant lady/hobby dabbler/travel enthusiast/etc.), as many OTs tend to do.
I am originally from Savannah, GA, but currently live in Greenville, SC. I’m an outgoing introvert and a lifelong lover of learning. I think that about sums it up.
Question: What made you want to become an occupational therapist?
I first discovered OT during my original career as a certified child life specialist. I was working in the ER and wanted to help educate staff members about the needs of our Autistic* patients; I somehow connected with one of the outpatient staff OTs and starting learning more about her role. I was always drawn to medicine and had originally planned to go back to grad school to become a pediatric PA.
I was actually admitted to a PA school and was getting ready to start classes when I had a sudden quarter-life crisis and realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life (my poor parents were not thrilled with my indecision but nonetheless supported me—shout-out, Mom and Dad!). With OT still in the back of my mind (but very little actual knowledge about what OTs did), I began shadowing at a local pediatric therapy clinic.
I was initially drawn to PT but ended up learning more about and falling in love with OT. I was also the caregiver for a teen with CP at the time, and supporting him in his independence and meaningful occupational engagement was really rewarding for me.
*P.S. Yes, I did say “Autistic” up there. 😊 Most Autistic adults prefer identity-affirming language as opposed to the previously-taught person-first verbiage. Click here to learn more
Question: What drew you to pediatrics?
I’ve actually never been drawn to anything BUT pediatrics, to be honest. I wanted to work in peds long before I was even an adult myself. I just think kids are refreshing, hilarious, resilient, and entertaining (sometimes with their brutal honesty, which can be a real trip).
However, after becoming a parent and continuing to work in the world of outpatient pediatrics, I knew I needed some balance in my professional and personal life. My current job is a perfect fit.
Question: What is Super Duper Publications?
Super Duper is a family-owned publication company that specializes in creating fun and unique products made for therapy clinicians, by clinicians. The company was founded over 30 years ago by Sharon and Thomas Webber. Sharon is a speech-language pathologist, and for many years Super Duper Publications primarily focused on creating products to meet the needs of school-based and pediatric SLPs.
The company has continued to grow and has now expanded into the occupational therapy, physical therapy, and special education markets.
We make card decks, books, games, digital products, and therapy tools. Our products are sold worldwide and are especially well-known in the peds SLP world. To learn more or browse our products, click here.
Question: How did you start getting involved with Super Duper Publications?
I first learned about Super Duper products at the peds clinic where I started my OT career in Las Vegas. Many of the SLPs who worked there owned Super Duper products, and I was always impressed with their quality and creativity. I eventually bought one of Super Duper’s OT products, and I ended up using that card deck almost every day in my practice.
After moving back to Savannah when our son was born, my husband and I knew we eventually wanted to end up in the Greenville, SC area (one of my best friends from childhood lives here, and we would often come up to visit). I was teaching at my undergrad alma mater at the time while simultaneously juggling a part-time 40-kid outpatient OT caseload, commuting about 15 hours each week, and attempting to parent my toddler (oof.). I loved teaching, but it was stressful and (quite frankly) I was barely earning enough money to cover my gas for commuting.
And then—COVID happened.
It was the most chaotic, confusing, anxiety-producing experience of my life, but I learned so much about myself and what I actually wanted out of my career in those months of uncertainty as I transitioned abruptly to teletherapy and university e-learning.
When I spotted the job posting from Super Duper, I knew it was a sign, and it was time to move to Greenville!
Question: What are some of the projects you’ve worked on at Super Duper Publications?
So far, I have conceptualized and worked on several large-scale photography projects to create two products specific to activities of daily living (“ADLs”) and some other products that are coming soon (stay tuned!).
My first published product is an ADL card deck that breaks down 20 different activities into 6 steps each so that clinicians or caregivers can work on cognitive sequencing skills and teach ADLs in a structured and meaningful way.
The second is a companion book which provides helpful tips on how to teach the various ADLs, activity analysis data sheets for tracking progress, visual sequences for clients to reference, and lots of supplemental materials to aid in evaluation of specific skills (this product is coming soon/is currently being printed).
It’s been so fun for me to be able to utilize my creative and clinical skills in the product development sphere, but there has been a huge learning curve for me here which has also been an engaging challenge.
For example, I had NO IDEA how much work goes into planning, designing, and bringing these projects to life. As an occupational therapist, I’ve often found myself in the position of saying, “Well, I never expected to do THIS when I went to grad school!” Organizing and directing photoshoots, learning how to navigate social media and marketing strategies, and realizing how much goes into production and even trade-show conference logistics has all been a very eye-opening experience for me.
Question: How is your pay compared to pay you would expect doing patient treatment full time?
My pay here is very comparable to what I was making in outpatient pediatrics once benefits are factored in. As I was thinking of leaving the outpatient peds/independent contractor world, a HUGE consideration for me was quality of life, consistency/predictability of pay, and work-life balance.
Previously, I used to spend many, many unpaid hours every week completing documentation, writing evaluations, scoring assessments, and planning treatment sessions. I was getting burned out with that experience and was frustrated by the severe limitations insurance providers placed on me. I know what “best practice” is—and unfortunately, many insurance providers refuse to reimburse for the treatment interventions that we as skilled clinicians know are truly beneficial.
It honestly doesn’t matter what the hourly pay is at a job if it’s not a maintainable position in the long term or if it kills your love for the profession. For me, it was a very advantageous transition for many reasons—both professionally and personally.
This job is the perfect fit for me, because it allows me to utilize my OT skills and knowledge as well as my love for writing, editing, and creating. Most OTs will tell you that they love coming up with meaningful, unique activities for their clients/patients, but they just don’t always have the time and resources to do so. This career pivot has really given me that opportunity.
Question: What is your favorite part about working at Super Duper Publications?
This job is extremely unique in the field as it provides me with the opportunity to conceptualize OT-specific product ideas (card decks, games, books, etc.) and work with a talented team of other therapy professionals, artists, graphic designers, web developers, and photographers to bring those ideas to life.
I love my coworkers and really enjoy getting to collaborate with them to produce something that I know will be helpful for other therapists and the kids they serve.
Also, I get to work in a very fun, wildly-decorated, creativity-inducing castle full of smart and talented people. It’s a win-win situation.
And yes, it really is a castle.
Question: Do you still do any patient treatment in addition to working at Super Duper Publications?
I do not currently treat any patients/clients. I work full-time for Super Duper and enjoy my time off with family and friends.
I do maintain my professional OT licenses in GA and SC, however.
Question: What advice do you have for other allied health professionals looking to use their professional degree in areas besides direct patient treatment?
Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith.
As therapy professionals, we have SO many diverse skills that can often serve us well in other industries. Don’t be afraid to try something new or explore additional professional interests.
Establishing growth and abundance mindsets can be a really powerful thing, especially if you are at the point where you are ready for a career pivot but aren’t sure how to make it happen.