"Canyons to the Sea OT is about growing healthier, happier, more hope-filled lives...together!
Because healing happens in relationship." ~ Deborah Graves, OTD, OTR/L
Deborah Graves, OTD, OTR/L is a licensed, doctoral level occupational therapist who specializes in increasing social, motor, sensory, attention, and functional skills while reducing the stress response through providing play-based, child-directed, family-centered, and relationship-oriented care. She implements Ayres Sensory Integration Therapy, multi-sensory integration therapy, Therapeutic Listening, environmental modifications, mindfulness training, and cognitive-behavioral techniques, to address foundational issues related to physical, social, or emotional concerns impacting functional performance goals. Although Deborah addresses fine, gross, visual, oral, and sensory motor concerns within her sessions, she intentionally does so within the context of meaningful activities and routines. She offers in-home, clinic, community, nature, and adventure-based occupational therapy in order to most effectively address the goals of greatest importance to the child and family as a whole.
Deborah's occupational therapy doctoral work at the University of Southern California focused on understanding and measuring the stress response of the sympathetic nervous system, particularly regarding visual, auditory, and olfactory stimuli. She compiled two evidence-based, systematic reviews (pending publication), investigating: 1) Atypical stress responses related to cognitive, motor, sensory, and social challenges of children with special needs; and 2) Elements of built and natural environments that create calm and healing, versus arousing or alerting, physiological responses, with a particular interest for application in hospital, clinical, and therapeutic settings. During her doctoral residency at an early intervention clinic she designed 10 multisensory-themed (snoezelen) rooms with 32 weeks of small group program curriculum addressing attention, self-regulation, cognition, communication, social, fine, gross, visual, oral, and sensory motor goals for children with a variety of special needs. She conducted staff and parent inservice trainings and education on the stress responses of the sympathetic nervous system, impacts on learning, and treatment to address these areas of concern.
In addition to occupational therapy, Deborah has a background in science and evidence-based research methods. As an undergrad studying at New College of Florida, the state's honors college, she received a bachelors degree in Environmental Studies focusing on Environmental Education. Her honors thesis was a semester-long, hands-on, 5th grade science curriculum, including field trips and experiments, guiding teachers and students in learning about fresh and salt water ecosystems. As part of her studies she interned at the South Florida Museum and Bishop Planetarium, Sarasota County Department of Natural Resources, the research department of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Archibald Biological Station, and Pine Jog Environmental Education Center. Following undergrad, she worked for 11 years teaching PreK-6th grade science for the Orange County Department of Education. As a Traveling Scientist and Lead Program Naturalist, she taught hands-on, California State standards-based curriculum, focusing on life, physical, and earth sciences, including working with native and exotic live animals, in schools across southern California and on field trips to inland and coastal wilderness areas.
In addition to a background in research, science, and education, Deborah combined her passions with outdoor recreation and trained as an outdoor adventure and high ropes course instructor through Inner Quest, Inc., in McLean Virginia. Prior to entering graduate school for occupational therapy, she also taught swimming for several summers and managed sailing camps for eight summers with Westwind Sailing, Inc..
In the years leading up to the decision to return to graduate school, Deborah volunteered for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and raised over $15,000 competing in two Olympic Triathlons and a Marathon. She also volunteered in the Child Life Department at CHOC and at the Orange County Children's Therapeutic Arts Center, bringing respite care and relief through therapeutic use of music, dance, and art. Pursuing a doctorate in Occupational Therapy became a mission and life purpose combining all of Deborah's personal and professional interests, skills, gifts, and passions for science, nature, outdoor recreation, the arts, education, learning, and caring deeply for others. She loves working with families and feels personally called and blessed to be a part of their lives and to have them a part of hers.
Deborah established Canyons to the Sea OT to bring families together for support and healing. She believes that when one member has struggles, the whole family needs support, just as much as the child with special needs. She looks at each person as an individual, not as a diagnosis, and treats each person in her care with dignity, with respect, and above all, with love. Deborah is a gifted teacher, with children as well as with adults. She puts her heart into each person in her care, and facilitates healing in a loving and meaningful way. Deborah has a passion for her work and practice model, which is relationship-oriented, collaborative, strengths-based, compassionate, respectful, and empowering. She values these characteristics in her practice as a means to achieving client goals... doing so together - because healing happens in relationship!
You and your family are the first members of the Canyons to the Sea OT Team! You are the expert on your child, and we would not be a team without you. We believe in a parent training and empowerment model of support, collaboration, and success. We are family-centered, child-directed, and meaning-driven, therefore we address the goals that are important to YOU! We look forward to working and growing together as a Canyons to the Sea Community!
- Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD); University of Southern California
- BA Environmental Studies, with a focus on Environmental Education; New College of Florida, honors college
- Registered/Licensed occupational therapist (Infants - Adults)
- Experienced in science and evidence-based research methods and practice
- Ayres Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT)
- Therapeutic Listening (Vital Links)
- Handwriting Without Tears
- Eleven years teaching experience with Orange County Department of Education (Traveling Scientist and Outdoor Environmental Educator; PK-6th grades)
- US Sailing Instructor
- Outdoor Adventure, Ropes Course, Recreation, and WSI Swim Instructor
- CPR/First Aid
Deborah Graves, OTD, OTR/L
Founder and Director of Canyons to the Sea OT
Administrative Assistant and Parent Advocate (Volunteer)
Canyons to the Sea OT - Nurturing Unique Occupational Therapy Experiences with Families Across Orange County, CA
"The first time I met Deborah, I knew our lives were going to change." ~ Megan Lierman
Megan Lierman is a mom. Her son, Sam, was diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum, a few months shy of his 3rd birthday. Megan searched for the best care for Sam, and landed gracefully into Deborah's care. As Deborah branched out into her private practice, Megan followed, doing whatever was needed to ensure the success of the clinic, community-based services, and the care of her son.
Megan became Deborah's administrative assistant (parent volunteer) as Canyons to the Sea technical adviser, web designer, online community organizer, parent advocate, and so much more! Between painting, building, and designing equipment with Deborah, while caring for her own son and helping other parents with childcare, Megan maintains the Canyons to the Sea OT website, our Facebook blog, and YouTube channel. She shares messages of strength, humor, encouragement, and inspiration to our Canyons to the Sea Community, and collaborates in the development and implementation of our music and movement programs.
Before becoming a mom, Megan owned and ran a childcare facility outside of Seattle, WA. She holds CPR/First aid certifications, and has training in Applied Behavioral Analysis, focusing mainly on infants and toddlers in a preschool classroom setting. Megan has over a decade of early childhood experience in daycare and nanny positions.
The unique perspective that Megan brings to Canyons to the Sea OT is that she's been on the other side of the diagnostic table. She has been through the unending appointments, assessments, paperwork, and the long nights with a special needs child. She's been there, and knows that sometimes just a knowing shoulder to cry on makes the best difference. Also, Megan's 18-year-old brother-in-law has a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. Megan has been his "big sister" since he was 3 years old. Megan gets it.
Megan provides respite care to families with kids on the Autism Spectrum. Her adult life has been spent working with children, and doing so is her first love.
"As a mom to a child with special needs, I understand how wonderful a warm cup of coffee, and a quiet conversation can be with a friend who really does get it."