WELLNESS through the arts

Jordann Poteet, in red shirt, teaching a class at TNP.

by Lauren Speirs

Jordann Poteet’s path to becoming an occupational therapistis one that The Naples Players (TNP) is proud to be a part of.

Initially, Jordann arrived at TNP to volunteer backstage. In high school, she participated in theatre and volleyball and decided she wanted to pursue stage management after being the Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) for her last school musical.

As fate would have it, while Jordann started her first year with TNP, Director of Community Education & Wellness, Craig Price, was also starting his first year of implementing a program that helped to address the challenges of those impacted by ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) by using improv.

Jordann’s interest in working with people with developmental disabilities is personal and starts with her own journey. Since childhood, she has had to learn to navigate visual, auditory, and sensory processing disorders, ADHD, and dyslexia. In addition to these challenges, she is on the autism spectrum. When she was a child, Jordann struggled with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and major depression.

“At one point I even had a service dog but through the combination of finding God, occupational therapy, visual therapy and involvement in activities like theatre and volleyball, I no longer suffer from these conditions.” Reflecting on her childhood and navigating these disabilities she says, “Some people say – ‘I wish I could be a kid again!’… I don’t! I hated being a kid. I was bullied a lot as a child and that’s how I got into advocating for people like me. They would call me ‘stupid’ and I would try to educate them. I realized that I knew what my own experience was with my disability, but I didn’t know too much about it. That led me to read and research all about it and better understand and inform other people.”

When Jordann was younger and first diagnosed with dyslexia, her mom signed her up for a theatre performance.

“My Mom signed me up for a show to trick me into reading and it worked!”

Jordann Poteet, in red shirt, teaching a class at TNP.

This was not the only time theatre helped her sharpen her skills.

“Stage Managing helped me with my ADHD – it taught me how to be on time and how to communicate efficiently with other people.”

She crossed paths with Craig Price at TNP, and began to assist in teaching his Wellness Program classes.

Jordann says, “I’ve been really passionate about working with children and adults with special needs. It’s made such a huge impact. It’s a unique experience that most people don’t understand. For me, even if the person is experiencing this disability at a higher degree than I do, I still always ask myself  ‘how can I help?’” Jordann explains that there is a balance to uphold when teaching people with disabilities. “You have to have empathy for what they’re going through while still holding them to a certain standard. In reality, it’s not just for this group, it’s what all kids need.”

The only thing left for her to complete before attaining her degree from Keiser University as an Occupational Therapist is fieldwork which has been delayed due to COVID-19.

“None of my classmates have completed their field work yet because no one is accepting students. Once completed, I hope to work in pediatrics with neurodevelopmental disorders.”

Jordann has been able to infuse TNP’s Wellness classes with what she has learned from her degree courses.

“It has helped me to downgrade or upgrade the activities to fit the students’ needs. This is something that we have to do on the spot. I think it’s fun – I like thinking on my feet. Our goal is to make our therapeutic activities valuable to the individual. Recreational therapy like improv is great- they don’t actually know that it’s therapeutic.”

Craig says that wonderful people like Jordann “just started coming into my path and made the Wellness Program possible. When I first talked to Jordann, our schedules worked out perfectly because she could teach first in the afternoons and then do her stage management duties afterwards in the evenings.” Craig adds that, “everyone who teaches in this community gets so much back from it; not just the students.”

To learn more about The Naples Players Wellness Program, please contact Craig Price at cprice@naplesplayers.org or call 239.434.7340 ext. 103.

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