What do OTs (Occupational Therapists) do? Many people have no idea what an OT is when I tell them what I do! Many people think that we help people get jobs, but that is not the case (mostly anyways!). OTs focus on the areas of self-care, productivity and leisure. So depending where an OT is working they are helping people with very different things. OTs are trained in the areas of anatomy & physiology, neurology, child development, mental health, counselling, older adult disabilities, among other areas.
In acute care (hospitals) we focus a lot on self-care, helping people to be independent in their basic daily activities such as getting themselves dressed, having a bath, preparing a meal or moving around their homes/community. We prescribe equipment and provide education about how they can become more successful completing their activities of daily living in a safe manner. An independent study by health policy researchers published in Medical Care Research and Review (Rogers, Bai, Lavin, & Anderson, 2016) found that “occupational therapy is the only spending category where additional spending has a statistically significant association with lower readmission rates” for the three health conditions studied: heart failure, pneumonia, and acute myocardial infarction. Yay OT!
When working with children as we do at Bright Horizons OT, the focus looks very different. We use play as a means to achieving the child’s/family’s goals. In order to achieve the goals, we either use remediation (treating the underlying deficit) or compensation (adapting activities or environment) to make the child more successful in their everyday activities. The goals of OT can be many different things, here are some examples of general goals:
- Increase ability to pick up small objects and release them
- Increase ability to use both hands together (e.g. stabilizing the paper while writing with the other hand, holding a jar while using the other hand to twist the lid, etc.)
- Increase handwriting legibility and/or speed
- Increase accuracy while cutting with scissors
GROSS MOTOR/CORE STRENGTH:
- Increase core strength/postural stability in order to increase gross and fine motor skills
- Increase the child’s support while sitting in a chair at school (proper seating in order to maximize their ability to complete school activities)
- Making adaptations in gym class/sports/leisure activities to increase participation
- Increase self-care abilities such as getting themselves dressed, doing up buttons, zippers, tying their shoes, etc.
- Provide adaptive equipment/education to help make bathing independently or with assistance easier
- Increase self-feeding abilities (using a spoon, fork, knife, open cup, straw cup, etc.)
- Expand the number of foods a picky eater/problem feeder will eat
- Decrease sensitivities to sensory input (lights, sound, touch, etc.) and/or make environmental adaptations to help them cope with these sensitivities
- Increase the child’s ability to engage in hair brushing, hair washing, hair cutting, etc. for those that are sensitive to these activities
- Make adaptations/find clothing that the child will wear without being bothered by tags, seams, fabrics, etc.
- Increase on task behaviour in children who have attention difficulties (teaching self-regulation skills)
These are just some examples of the things that are addressed when you see an OT. One of the greatest parts of our job is we get to look at such a wide variety of areas!