Sunday, October 11, 2009

What is Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy, often abbreviated as "OT", incorporates meaningful and purposeful occupation to enable people with limitations or impairments to participate in everyday life. Occupational therapists work with individuals, families, groups and populations to facilitate health and well-being through engagement or re-engagement in occupation. Occupational therapists are becoming increasingly involved in addressing the impact of social and environmental factors that contribute to exclusion and occupational deprivation.

The World Federation of Occupational Therapist defines occupational therapy as a profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by enhancing the individual's ability to participate, by modifying the environment, adapting the activity to better support participation and/or facilitating physical or mental rehabilitation to maximize functional performance.

Occupational therapy relies on understanding the importance of an activity to an individual, being able to analyze the physical, mental and social components of the activity, and then adapting the activity, the environment, and/or the person to enable them to resume the activity. Occupational therapists address the question, "Why does this person have difficulties managing his or her daily activities (or occupations), and what can we adapt to make it possible for him or her to manage better and how will this then impact his or her health and well-being?”

Occupational therapy gives people the "skills for the job of living" necessary for "living life to its fullest."

Occupational therapy draws from the field of occupational science to provide an evidence base to practice and develop academic and practice links to other related disciplines such as social science and anthropology, and also utilizes a range of generic models to guide the practice of OT.

Who might need occupational therapy?

  • birth injuries or birth defects
  • sensory processing/integrative disorders
  • traumatic injuries (brain or spinal cord)
  • learning problems
  • autism
  • pervasive developmental disorders
  • juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • mental health or behavioral problems
  • broken bones or other orthopedic injuries
  • developmental delays
  • post-surgical conditions
  • burns
  • spina bifida
  • traumatic amputations
  • cancer
  • severe hand injuries
  • multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses

One of the activities that occupational therapists can address to meet children's needs is working on fine motor skills so that kids can grasp and release toys and develop good handwriting skills. Occupational therapists also address hand–eye coordination to improve play skills, such as hitting a target, batting a ball, or copying from a blackboard.

An occupational therapist can also:

  • help kids with severe developmental delays learn some basic tasks, such as bathing, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and feeding themselves
  • help kids with behavioral disorders learn anger-management techniques (i.e., instead of hitting others or acting out, the children would learn positive ways to deal with anger, such as writing about feelings or participating in a physical activity)
  • teach kids with physical disabilities the coordination skills required to feed themselves, use a computer, or increase the speed and legibility of their handwriting
  • evaluate each child's needs for specialized equipment, such as wheelchairs, splints, bathing equipment, dressing devices, or communication aids
  • work with kids who have sensory and attentional issues to improve focus and social skills

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