I found that I could never make as big of an impact as I wanted to while I was working in settings like hospitals and clinics. While therapists in these areas do absolutely wonderful work, I felt as if I wasn’t using all my skills and abilities to meet my full potential. Since I took the non-traditional route and started my business, I’ve been able to create content that has reached tens of thousands of people on an ongoing basis. I feel fulfilled each day and that has kept me centered. If I ever begin to feel like I am losing focus and not working toward my vision, I take a day to step away from the office and do some creative brainstorming. Maybe this means coming up with new article topics or maybe it means a new book idea. Possibly an even bigger program like a continuing education course to reach other therapists. Once I feel that I have several ideas that I am inspired by and interested in, I can return to my work and slowly parse those ideas out over a few days or few weeks. Since I do a lot of specific work for writing and consulting clients, this practice keeps me engaged with still doing things I want to do..
As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brittany Ferri.
Brittany Ferri, PhD, OTR/L, CPRP is an occupational therapist and the founder of Social Fly. She has authored four books and over 200 articles educating individuals about a range of health topics. She has been cited as a health expert by CNN, NBC News, WebMD, and Healthline. Her latest project, Social Fly, teaches kids about disabilities while improving their socioemotional development and motor skills.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?
I grew up in Connecticut in a part of the state that was surprisingly diverse. Despite this, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to people that were different from me, since I went to a small private school with only 10 others in my class. I think that led me to gravitate toward finding new experiences and new things to learn over the years.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I volunteered for the Special Olympics when I was in high school and I always enjoyed their mission. It was inspiring getting to work with and for others who were so passionate about something they love. This made me want to enter the field of occupational therapy.
You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?
I am the founder of Simplicity of Health, so I have created a lot of content, programs, and writing that has helped the public become more well-informed consumers and vehicles for health.
I recently created a program called Social Fly which is especially meaningful. Social Fly is a therapeutic tool that uses motion capture technology to educate kids about disabilities while improving their socioemotional development and motor skills. Social Fly aims to give children of all backgrounds and abilities a sense of community, belonging, and inclusion.
Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?
I believe that taking care of your health is very important, and no one can effectively do this without clear, accurate, comprehensible health information. I am also living with a chronic condition, which other people often struggle to understand. From those needs, Social Fly was born as a way to use thoughtful activities to educate kids on real-world topics surrounding disability and inclusion.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Since I have taken a unique path that most other therapists may be unfamiliar with, I have had a lot of therapy students and even therapists who have been working in the field for years reach out to me. They are so curious how I got into doing what I’m doing and what steps they can take to pursue a similar career. I find it interesting but also humbling that therapists with 20+ years of experience are inspired by something I’m doing! That sort of response lets me know I’m on the right track and I’m creating programming that the world needs.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I am mentoring one therapist who has especially seen a change in himself. Upon graduating from OT school, he was struggling to find a job in a traditional setting, partly due to living in a rural area and partly due to COVID. He was encouraged by seeing what I have done in my career so far and, though he did not want to follow a non-traditional path, it reaffirmed his choice to enter OT school in the first place. This gave him a renewed confidence and sense of motivation, which led him to contact many more organizations since he was determined to get a job. Soon after, he got 4 job offers and was on his way to successfully entering the field.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
No matter big or small, making a difference is helping someone, somewhere, in some way. People often think that making a difference means you have to be with someone through the entire process or guiding them through their whole lives. But what’s more important is making a difference that is so impactful that it stays with that person forever and has a ripple effect into all they do in their life.
Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.
-Once I wanted to go a non-traditional route in therapy, I became an expert networker. I can truly say that networking has given me the tools and resources I’ve needed to develop Social Fly and whatever else is to come in the future.
-Having direction is also really important. So often people have great, innovative ideas that never come to fruition because they haven’t narrowed their focus enough. It’s good to have a lot of ideas but not so many that it prevents you from following through on them.
-Organization is a good partner for having direction. This will keep you on track and help you develop the clear steps you need to take to make this change a reality. Once you know what steps need to happen, then you can set goals to keep yourself on track.
-Goal-setting comes after that crucial organization. Goals give you the ability to make tangible moves toward each component of your idea.
-Creativity should be a key component in developing an idea that you love, but also an idea that fills a gap and gives people what they want and need.
What are the values that drive your work?
Behind each project I work on is a whole lot of hard work, organization, and a passion for what I do.
Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?
I found that I could never make as big of an impact as I wanted to while I was working in settings like hospitals and clinics. While therapists in these areas do absolutely wonderful work, I felt as if I wasn’t using all my skills and abilities to meet my full potential. Since I took the non-traditional route and started my business, I’ve been able to create content that has reached tens of thousands of people on an ongoing basis. I feel fulfilled each day and that has kept me centered. If I ever begin to feel like I am losing focus and not working toward my vision, I take a day to step away from the office and do some creative brainstorming. Maybe this means coming up with new article topics or maybe it means a new book idea. Possibly an even bigger program like a continuing education course to reach other therapists. Once I feel that I have several ideas that I am inspired by and interested in, I can return to my work and slowly parse those ideas out over a few days or few weeks. Since I do a lot of specific work for writing and consulting clients, this practice keeps me engaged with still doing things I want to do.
In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!
I love the idea of meaningful occupation, which is why I connect with occupational therapy so much. When people love what they do (either for a living, a hobby, or as part of a role they fulfill), they are happy and engaged. This is the key to helping people get better despite an injury or illness — by tapping into those interests, we find what is needed to motivate someone and encourage productive living. In my ideal world, each person would be born with unlimited resources to help them find and connect with their personal inspiration and passion.
We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?
I would narrow my focus to only create therapeutic programs that assist people in improving their health. I feel this is one of the most powerful tools that individuals of all ages can use to increase their health literacy and advocacy skills. I would consistently get feedback from users to make thoughtful, considerate updates but also to glean continued gaps that future programs can potentially address.
I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?
I would love to see a program like Social Fly incorporated into the curriculum in the education system. I feel that kids must have a better understanding of those who are different from them from a very early age. So much hate that we see in the world now is driven by fear and ignorance. So by teaching kids that they shouldn’t treat others differently or be afraid of the unknown, we can build a more inclusive, accepting society where everyone has the sense of community we all long for.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I like the phrasing that people use when they reference environmental sustainability: “We need to clean the world up so that it’s still beautiful for our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.” I think that’s a poignant way to look at all types of positive impact. We need to think of the long-term impact. So, while something we do today may be small related to our vision and goals, it can make a huge difference in the lives of many people for years.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to meet Virginia Stoffel. She was the past vice president of the American Occupational Therapy Association. As someone who has worked in mental health settings for most of her career, I’d love to meet another therapist who has paved the way for OT’s role in such a foundational practice area.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
For more information on Simplicity of Health and Social Fly, visit www.simplicityofhealth.com
If you are looking to book a Social Fly demo for your organization, you can contact me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/brittanyferri/ or via the contact tab on my website.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!