A survivor of a stroke needs to relearn how to dress himself, there’s an OT for that. A grade 2 student with sensory issues needs classroom accommodations, there’s an OT for that. A person diagnosed with secondary progressive MS needs to make sure their home is safe to return to, there’s an OT for that. A government task force on homelessness needs to identify societal barriers to accessing housing, there’s an OT for that. Health and social service workers in developing nations struggle with inadequate funding and professional development for disability and rehabilitation healthcare workers; you guessed it, there’s an OT for that too.
Occupational therapy (OT) has come a long way since its humble beginnings of providing vocational training to soldiers who returned from WW1 with disabilities. Today Occupational therapists (OTs) work in almost every facet of society both at home and abroad. After registering as OTs, many go on to complete formal training in subspecialized disciplines like psychotherapy, pediatrics, and advanced wheelchair prescription, meaning if You need an ADP authorized clinician to fit and prescribe your a Permobil F5 power chair, there’s an OT for that.
Many OTs work directly with individuals in homes, communities, and institutions, but it is not uncommon to see OTs working on a population level in industry, business, and government. Regardless of where they practice, all OTs advocate for the inclusion and active participation of all individuals in society. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to being excluded from many aspects of society. The ability to drive is often a bridge to the activities that keep seniors engaged, so if you’re over 80 and You need to book a fitness to drive road test, there’s an OT for that.
At its core, OT is a type of healthcare that helps to solve the problems that interfere with a person’s ability to do the things that are important to them. Everyday activities like:
- Self-care: getting dressed, eating, moving around the home
- Being productive: going to work or school, participating in the community, and
- Leisure activities: sports, gardening, social activities.
Working is often identified as an extremely important activity for individuals to maintain. A typical office set up can be a huge barrier to working for people living with disability or injury, so if You need recommendations for a more ergonomic set up for your cubicle at work, perhaps including a lumbar support pillow, there’s an OT for that.
OTs are trained to understand the medical and physical limitations and psychosocial factors of a disability or injury that affect a person’s function. While OT interventions are always client-centred they don’t exclusively address person issues but also issues with their environment, and/or the task itself. OTs operate with the belief that with a little creativity and a solution-focused perspective there’s always a way for people to engage in the activities that are important to them. So if You need someone to fix the plumbing in your walk-in shower, unfortunately you will need a plumber. BUT an OT can help you adapt your bathtub or troubleshoot other ways to get clean while you wait for them to book you in.
Of particular interest to our Evika community, OTs frequently recommend the use of assistive devices and technologies and play a major role in increasing access to them. They not only promote the use of devices but have been a driving force behind the funding, development and repurposing of devices and technologies for different populations. evika.io was born out of and is guided by many of the principles and values central to Occupational Therapy and for that we hold our OT colleagues in particularly high esteem and we think you should too!
If you or someone you know lives with a disability, chances are you have benefitted from the existence of occupational therapy and the OTs that practice it. So please join me in thanking all those dedicated individuals, both here in Canada and abroad, for all that they do to support those living with disabilities.
Happy Occupational Therapy Month!