Solina Brainin-Mattos, OTR/L
Hi, I'm so happy you're here!
Inclusivity and accessibility to holistic wellness at all socioeconomic levels drive our company at its core. Empowering people with a healthy sense of independence and belonging is vital to creating an inclusive and embracing world. Through effective adaptation and access to holistic modalities, we can foster undeniable confidence and open doors to new activities, opportunities, and social connections. All of the above strengthen acceptance of diversity and inclusion of all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities within our communities.
Growing up, I was considered a very caring and sensitive child. I was highly articulate and could conversate very well at an early age, but I had difficulties with written language and the learning process. In the third grade, I was diagnosed with dyslexia which made learning in traditional settings very stressful. In addition to school being difficult, my home life was also stressful. I was raised by a single mom struggling to make ends meet, as well as determined to pursue her passions in Theatre.
But there is beauty in ashes.
My struggles at an early age sparked in me a strong desire to contribute to the lives of children, especially those that were exceptionally different in some way. My mother is Portuguese and my father was from Puerto Rice. My entire life, I was surrounded by a diverse community that embraced differences. I learned there was beauty in all people and places, no matter their belief system, skin color, nationality, or ability.
I spent most of my life in California and Puerto Rico, but my time on the island was most impactful. People think of the beautiful beaches and delicious food, but rarely do people from the outside see the brokenness within the systems. Puerto Ricans don't have the same opportunities as people living in the states. The disparities in income are insane, and the cost of living is comparable to Hawaii, with far fewer economic opportunities. Because of this, the community is so important on the island. They take loving your neighbor to the next level. I'm so grateful for my experiences in Puerto Rico and all that they taught me.
Because of my experiences
growing up in a multi-cultural community as a child with special needs, I always prayed about how I could make a difference. By the grace of God, I got into occupational therapy school and became a board-certified occupational therapist despite my challenges in learning. Fast forward to today, I’ve been an occupational therapist for over 20 years, with a focus in pediatrics and serving children with diverse exceptionality. While working in the system, I would question the inability to treat the root cause and make a difference in people's lives.
Over the course of my experience, I’ve developed a deep passion for finding natural ways to treat the person as a whole: mind, body, and spirit.
There were times when life was extremely challenging as a young person. Starting early childhood with divorced parents can make your early years of formation stressful. Then discovering that I had a learning disability made learning in traditional settings quite stressful. By my early 20s, I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder, and it was something that followed me for years. Many of the modalities that I use in treating children and adults now are based on calming the nervous system and are the modalities that helped me break out of the cycle of feeling like I was always on the verge of a mental health crisis.
After graduating from college in Puerto Rico, I became a clinical pediatric occupational therapist, which is how I served my community for 20 years. During that time, I married my incredible husband, Enrique, and had two beautiful daughters. There are a few things I learned in the process:
The traditional clinical setting is rigid and boring and, at times, ineffective.
There were so many things that I researched and invested time into that I knew would be of benefit to our kiddos, but they were natural and holistic modalities that insurance wouldn't cover.
Long hours are not conducive to raising a physically, emotionally, and spiritually thriving family.
I found myself burnt out and physically ill, showing up for the organizations I was working for but not being the mom and wife I needed and wanted to be.
Life sometimes isn't fair.
Medical care for a special needs child is expensive, even with Medicaid. However, not all Medicaid programs are created equal. Did you know that Medicaid in Puerto Rico won't pay for a child's wheelchair? It's crazy.
For all these reasons, I left the clinical setting to pursue where my heart was leading, and here is where Forward Focus Holistic Wellness steps in. I learned that wellness applies to the whole family, not just the child with special needs. We often don't realize the impact stressful situations have on an entire family. A special needs mama has a nervous system that is firing off like she is in war and likely is putting off self-care to be there for all her children, and then some siblings are trying to pursue athletics. The list goes on. I didn't have a special needs child, but I was functioning at an extremely high level while battling anxiety. It was always mind over matter, and I know that many women can identify with that.
There is so much power in bringing holistic wellness and modalities into an entire family.
Occupational therapy is the practice of empowering people to perform the activities required in daily life; we can all benefit from being able to live better on a daily basis. Taking this idea and expanding on it has allowed me to not only serve the special needs child and their family well, but the young athlete pursuing professional opportunities, the high-performing woman who needs to practice self-care, and the dad who's struggling with acute and chronic pain from an old injury that's been triggered.