Eileen W. Richter, MPH, OTR/L, FAOTA
I began my professional career as the sole occupational therapist at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, CA in 1970. I spent 3 productive years there expanding the department from strictly in-patient recreational activities to outpatient rehabilitation and sensory integration treatment. During my time in California I assisted Vi Huerta with a conference featuring A. Jean Ayres. It was my first experience learning directly from Dr. Ayres as well as my first experience organizing a conference.
In 1973 I moved back to my home state of Minnesota and embarked on a 16 year stint in the St. Paul Public Schools. Early in those years I expanded the OT presence in the school program for students with developmental delays from one OT to five OTs and 2 COTAs; arranged for and participated in an 8 week NDT course, among others; published an intervention program in collaboration with Patricia Montgomery, PhD, PT; developed an assessment tool (published later); and started a family.
Shortly after the death of my 9 month-old infant son to SIDS, I began work on my Master of Public Health degree in Maternal and Child Health (acquired in 1986). That graduate work provided a broad perspective on health and medical practice that supported my interest in exploring theory and treatment development. I founded Professional Development Programs as a vehicle to bring continuing education programs by leading experts in intervention to the Minnesota community of pediatric therapists and eventually to thousands across the United States.
In 1986, colleague Nancy Lawton-Shirley and I, became interested in a model camp program developed by Patricia Wilbarger in Santa Barbara, CA. We formed Research and Development in Pediatric Therapy, a non-profit corporation, and arranged with Patricia Wilbarger to replicate Camp Avanti in Hudson, WI. The model drew occupational therapists skilled in a variety of intervention strategies from all over the US and abroad to share their expertise, learn from each other and explore new intervention strategies. Avanti-Camp Icoghowan (formerly Avanti-Camp St. Croix) has evolved into a major treatment laboratory that has changed the standard of practice for treating children with sensory processing disorders. Hundreds of occupational therapists, both inexperienced and experienced have gained valuable insights and numerous campers have made life changes as a result of their experience at Camp Avanti.
My passion for exploring and fostering development of clinically relevant, effective theory, assessment, and intervention strategies found practical expression in disseminating information through continuing education and publication. My clients, children and grandchildren have provided inspiration leading to specialized therapy equipment, being marketed under the brand "Richter Active Integration Resources."