Being a paediatric occupational therapist, business owner, children’s book author, and mother, to now directing music videos, Dr Reema Naim wears many hats. With her ‘penchant for the fantastical’, this daughter of a Saudi Arabian princess has taken several detours in her medical journey to exhibit her passion for creativity and self-expression.
She now runs OT Studios, Inc, which serves children with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities in the Los Angeles area, USA. Her practice includes using her own unique system called The Sensokids, four animated characters representing the sensory systems involved in Ayres Sensory Integration (commonly addressed in occupational therapy).
“Every child processes sensory information in their own unique way… We don’t have just five senses, we have seven very powerful and crucial senses that affect our ability to understand our environment,” she writes.
Aiming to bring out something imaginative and fun for kids with special needs and the sensory community, Dr Reema developed a four-book series with accompanying videos and sensory play techniques. Titled Adventures of the Sensokids, the books made it to Today.com’s TOP 20 best holiday gifts for children with special needs in 2021 list.
With a growing social-media presence, Dr Reema is now heading in an unusual new direction: as a music video director for her husband Solvan “Slick” Naim, an award-winning Algerian-American screenwriter, director and rapper originally from Brooklyn, New York.
eShe caught up with her about her unconventional journey.
You grew up in London and later moved to California. Who or what were the major influences in your early years that shaped your later academic and creative career?
In all honesty, I was inspired by creative artists — musicians, filmmakers and authors. I read a lot of Roald Dahl books, grew up watching fantasy movies and was inspired by creatives. The road to the medical world wasn’t innate for me, it was more expected because of my family background, but I ended up using it as a medium to create my Sensokids characters and fulfil my true creative calling.
When did you decide to get into occupational therapy? What was the trigger for you at the time?
I decided to pursue occupational therapy when I was introduced to it as an elective class while doing my Bachelor’s in child psychology from University of Southern California. In both the Middle Eastern and South Asian cultures, respect is most readily earned through the extent of one’s education and the lofty title one might gain from it! I was also fascinated by the neuroscience behind the sensory systems and decided to make that my specialty.
So I went on to become a Doctor of Occupational Therapist (OT) and created my own OT practice.
Your mother is Saudi Arabian royalty, what did it take for you to break out of the expectations your family had of you?
My mother is a member of the Saudi royal family and by marrying my British-born father and moving to the UK, I was raised in a society where opportunities were endless. It was more the cultural values that both my parents subscribed to that prohibited my freedom to take up a creative career.
How did motherhood change you as a woman and as an occupational therapist?
Motherhood changed everything for me. I think it motivated me to be a stronger force in my field and make bold career choices. It’s also been difficult to have the knowledge I have because now I am uncontrollably evaluating my children’s every milestone achievement!
Both yours and Slick’s professions are quite different. What inspired you to make a music video with your husband?
I’ve always wanted to flex my creative wings and it’s been a dream come true to be able to direct music videos that star my husband. Observing Slick and other producers on the set of his Emmy-nominated hit Netflix series It’s Bruno (which Slick wrote, directed and starred in), I observed the ins and outs of the job.
My directorial music video debut for Slick’s hit song That’s My Baby has been a huge hit on YouTube since its December 2021 release and since the song was written about me I ended up starring in it as well!
The five videos we have done together have gained a lot of views on social media, which is very exciting.
What inspired your new series of books and can you tell us how they help children with special needs?
I noticed families at my practice having difficulty understanding sensory integration and not fully grasping how much children rely on their senses to appropriately engage in daily activities. After discovering a crucial need to provide education so kids can overcome sensory challenges in an enjoyable way, I decided to create the Adventures of the Sensokids book series.
It is aimed at educating parents, educators and children about their sensory “superpowers” and this interactive series shows how important our senses are in enabling us to navigate our environment.
The first book in 2021 was Oh Messy Me and the latest one Letters on my Lunchbox is out now. The final instalment of the series will be released this fall.
Can these books be used by people from different cultures and geographies as well?
Yes, absolutely! Children from all backgrounds need sensory education and I developed the book series to be enjoyed by children everywhere. If anything, it educates all children about their sensory powers and gives them an understanding of children who may not process sensory information the same way.