From the Heart

Forging a career centered on kindness, Alexiai McGlynn, OTD ‘ 25, has worked with a variety of populations, including athletes with disabilities, refugees, senior citizens, veterans, and children with autism.
Alexiai McGlynn

The Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center was brimming with joyful, organized chaos on November 5 as the University hosted its annual Adaptive Sports Day. Booths and demonstrations were set up across the gym displaying the latest in adaptive sports equipment provided by New England Disabled Sports and Adaptive Sports New England

Members of Greater Boston’s disabled community were invited to attend along with their families. Local sports coaches as well as Tufts occupational therapy students and faculty were also present to learn about a host of adaptive sports, including curling, tennis, skiing, sled hockey, wheelchair lacrosse, wheelchair basketball, baseball, and soccer.

As a volunteer with Adaptive Sports New England, Alexiai McGlynn, OTD ‘25, was on hand to help assemble wheelchairs and staff the baseball station for the blind and visually impaired. She has been volunteering with the organization for over a year and this was her first time attending Tufts Adaptive Sports Day. 

“It was such an awesome event,” McGlynn recounts. “Everyone seemed so happy and so many different sports were represented. It was wonderful to see kids with disabilities getting excited not only about participating in a sport but realizing that they can be part of a team and a community, which is so important for anyone with a disability.”

At Tufts, McGlynn is pursuing her doctorate in occupational therapy with a focus in community-based health. She was first introduced to OT in college while working with a refugee resettlement organization, helping families fleeing poverty and war acclimate to life in the US.  “One of the staff people was an OT and he could sense how much I love connecting with people and that being helpful comes naturally to me,” she says. “He told me about the field and said I’d make a great occupational therapist. I’ve never looked back – it’s been an amazing fit for me.”

McGlynn studied disability and human development and rehabilitation with a focus on urban health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also worked in several clinics serving children with autism and other disabilities before starting her doctorate.

“Tufts is everything I could ever want in an OT program,” McGlynn says. “I chose Tufts because it thrives on a service model and a social model of disability. I’ve found such great mentors during my time here, particularly Lecturers Mary Barnes and Sarah Skeels. Mary just embodies what community building is all about and I’m so inspired by Sarah’s advocacy work. I want to be just like them!” 

McGlynn has completed fieldwork placements at a charter school and an assisted living facility in Somerville, running cooking groups, trivia activities, and drumming circles for seniors. Her next fieldwork placement is at New England Disabled Sports in New Hampshire.

In addition to her fieldwork placements and work in adaptive sports, McGlynn still volunteers with the refugee resettlement organization she worked for in college, implementing evaluation procedures and assessing ways the organization can better support refugees with disabilities. She also works at the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center at MIT, supporting students who are undertaking social justice projects.

“I’m really motivated by people and community,” McGlynn says. “It’s something I love with my whole heart. I was just on a student panel where we were asked what area of practice we want to go into and I said I’d do anything to work with refugee communities. It’s something I see as that important. I thrive in challenging environments where I’m problem-solving, building community, and helping people. The Tufts OT program is difficult, but knowing I’ll get to work in a field I love keeps me going.”

Outside of OT, McGlynn is passionate about fitness having been a gymnast and cheerleader growing up. She also values being a supportive, listening ear for her loved ones. “I absolutely love being a sister and a friend, it truly is what keeps me going” she says. “I think my focus on caring for my family and others will shape the kind of clinician I'll be and the work I’ll do.”