DOWNEY - Bobbi Jean Tanberg, BS, COTA/L, ATP came to Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center nearly two decades ago as a therapist after being challenged by multiple orthopedic injuries. But although she had completed her physical rehabilitation, her adjustment to disability had not yet occurred."Rancho helped me understand why my experience in society would be different just because I‚Äàwas using a wheelchair," she said. "I had just as much and maybe even more to offer sitting down as I did standing up, and yet society was making me feel the opposite." Tanberg put her real-life experience to work on behalf of the patients with disabilities at Rancho. Her area of expertise is the use of assistive technology to help persons with physical disabilities to access computers and control their environment. She has developed several programs within the Occupational Therapy department to empower inpatients and outpatients to participate in meaningful occupation. These programs have brought her worldwide acclaim, including being selected as a keynote speaker at the First International Conference for Persons with Disabilities in Abuja, Nigeria. "I strongly believe that success starts with establishing a goal and taking small steps each week to keep your focus and gain momentum," Tanberg said. "Regardless of the barriers that you run into, there are community resources, asssitive technology or peer wisdom that can assist you in surpassing those barriers to achieve your goals." One of her signature accomplishments is co-founding and leading Rancho's award-winning KnowBarriers program, which provides Rancho patients with many of the tools they need to thrive after their catastrophic disabling illness or injury. KnowBarriers services include life coaching, peer mentoring, substance abuse recovery, violence prevention outreach, and information and referral. All members of the KnowBarriers team are individuals who are living their dreams, with a disability. Now Tanberg's outstanding work as an occupational therapist and inspirational leader has earned her Rancho's highest honor, the Amistad Award. She will receive the Award for Individual Achievement at the 24th Annual Amistad Gala on May 1 at the Westin Long Beach Hotel. Tanberg began her Rancho career working with the legendary Greg Thompson, then a Rancho recreation therapist and later the hospital's director of social work. "He exposed me to the world of wheelchair sports, which I saw at the time as a way to increase my fitness level, have fun and meet some people," Tanberg said. As she gained experience and confidence in the Rancho rehabilitation sports program, Tanberg realized she could express herself through athletics. "My dream was to become good enough in basketball to make the USA Women's Wheelchair basketball team," she remembered. "It was an outrageous goal, but why not try?" Her hard work and determination paid off. She not only became a member of the USA Women's Wheelchair basketball team, but played on the U.S. team at the Sydney Paralympic Games in 2000. Today, in addition to her Rancho and KnowBarriers responsibilities, she serves the community as vice president of the Los Angeles County Commission for Women. "Rancho gave me the hope to make my dream come true," she said. "Now I‚Äàam trying to provide the same insight to clients I‚Äàwork with so that they can also realize the power of their dreams."
********** Published: April 9, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 51