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What Does Occupational Therapy Mean

What Is An Occupational Therapy Assistant

What is occupational therapy?

OTAs work in diverse practice areas and settings, helping:

  • Toddlers increase their social skills through play
  • Amputees learn how to function with a new artificial limb
  • Wheelchair bound individuals navigate buildings on their own
  • Individuals with Down syndrome learn self-care activities
  • Senior citizens with dementia adapt to memory loss

Movement Strength & Balance Development

Gross motor skills help us move and coordinate our arms, legs, and other body parts. They involve larger muscles that help us control our body. A child who is behind in movement, strength, and/or balance may appear clumsy or uncoordinated. They may also have difficulty with these things:

  • Going up and down stairs at an age appropriate time
  • Coordinating both sides of the body
  • Understanding the concept of right and left
  • Poor ball skills

Their muscle tone, or muscle tension and resistance, could be higher or lower than the appropriate developmental milestone. They might also:

  • be fearful of feet leaving the ground
  • doesn’t cross midline of his or her body during play and school tasks
  • avoids tasks and games that require gross motor skills

Occupational Therapy Can Also Work On Functional Cognition And Visual Deficits

Occupational therapists address cognitive issues in light of functional requirements. For example, what mental abilities are needed to manage a daily calendar, pay bills, order things online, and return to work? The goal of occupational therapy is to improve cognition through practicing the skills or employing activities that call for organization, attention, problem-solving, and reasoning.

Following neurological diagnosis, OTs primarily focus on visual processing since it can shed light on more elusive problems. In addition, OTs can assess pre-driving abilities and conduct driving evaluations in the clinic.

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How Does Ot Work

OT is tailored for each persons needs. Therapists start by looking at strengths and challenges. Then they create a program of exercises and activities that focus on the motor skills that need improving.For example, activities to build fine motor skills might include picking things up with tweezers. Exercises to improve gross motor skills might include jumping jacks or running an obstacle course.

For someone who struggles with motor planning, therapists might work on daily routines like getting dressed. They help people learn the initial steps and the sequence of tasks that follow.

Many kids who need OT get it for free at school. This service is usually part of a special education plan. OT can happen one-on-one or in small groups.

Learn more about:

Can A Person Walk Again After A Stroke

What does occupational therapy mean?

Yes, it is possible to walk again after a stroke. However, regaining your mobility post-stroke is one of the most important challenges during rehabilitation. The ability to walk independently leads to a better quality of life and increases your bodys ability to heal much better.

When you suffer from a stroke, this leads to several issues such as:

  • Loss of balance

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Wait Why Exactly Is It Called Occupational Therapy

Its natural to wonder what our name means. We do not help people get jobs, and we are not focused on employment.

Instead, our title comes from an old-school idea of occupation, which simply refers to whatever occupies someones time. We work to understand what is meaningful for each specific patientand then we do everything we can to help them return to those activities.

Heres a video I made to explain what OT is. Its a great intro to OT for aspiring clinicians, medical professionals, patients, family members, or anyone else who is curious about our wonderful profession!

Watch our explanation of OT on YouTube!

Whats The Difference Between Occupational Therapy And Physical Therapy

What is occupational therapy vs. physical therapy? This is a great question.

Occupational therapists and physical therapists are quite similar in some ways, as both are rehabilitation professionals who strive to help patients return to their prior levels of function.

The key difference is that OT focuses more on the improvement of daily activities while PT focuses more on the specific improvement of body movement.

You can think of a PT as a human body mechanic, and an OT as a guide to the reintegration into normal life.

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Help You Cope With Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can occur for many reasons such as:

  • Aging of the affected bones and joints
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Injuries that fail to heal properly

Chronic pain can make you lose control over your daily activities. Occupational therapists use managed approaches to give you adaptive methods to complete your everyday tasks. These methods may involve:

  • Proactive pain control
  • Pacing activities

How Does The Field Of Ot Differ From Pt Or From Recreational Therapy Is There Any Overlap

What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?: An explanation of a wonderful profession

Shannen: I get this question all the time and to be honest I have several different answers because I usually turn the question back around to whoever asks me to begin with.

For example, take this time and close your eyes and prepare yourself for your life to be changed. Now picture yourself performing your typical morning routine whatever that may be. Perhaps you are like me and you get ready mindlessly, quickly pulling on your scrubs while simultaneously starting your coffee and haphazardly gathering your lunch to take to work. You quickly kiss your spouse goodbye and head out the door with your work lunch in hand and breakfast in the other to eat on the go in your car. You are driving in your car to work and you feel numbness and tingling in your hands and face. You try pulling over and you realize something is wrong. Your car gets hit from behind. You wake up and an unfamiliar man in a white coat explains that you had a mini stroke that led you to pull over to the side of the road before being hit from behind. You are thankfully okay but now have a broken femur and are weak on one side of the body.

PT will help you walk again, but OT will help you put on your dancing shoes and dance with you!!

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Is Ot Supported By Research

The short answer is yes. Research does back the efficacy of occupational therapy.

The longer answer: Right now, about 1,000 research articles come out per year containing occupational therapy. So, there is much for your therapist to draw on.

Each person is unique in their health and the challenges they face, so we always do our best to balance the science with close attention to each individual patient and their own individual needs. We call this evidence-based practice.

One of the easiest ways to find out about the evidence supporting the occupational therapy resources you are receiving is to ask your occupational therapist. I also have an article called The 100 Most Influential OT Research Articles, which covers the most cited medical research articles that reference OT interventions.

There are several journals dedicated to sharing evidence about occupational therapy resources, including:

How Can Ot Help You

Our goal is always to make a long-term and tangible difference in patients daily lives. We do this by helping each patient participate in the day-to-day activities that they find most meaningful through occupational therapy treatment.

For a child, this might mean building the skills needed to play with friends with support from a pediatric occupational therapist.

For an adult, this might mean being able to prepare a meal for loved ones.

We OTs call these meaningful daily routines activities of daily living or ADLs.

These basic building blocks of daily life can become difficult after an injury, disability, or illness, and occupational therapy professionals can help people develop the skills to participate in these activities with confidence.

Here is the complete list of the activities an OT can help with:

Bathing and Showering | Toileting and Toilet Hygiene | Dressing | Eating and Swallowing | Feeding | Functional Mobility | Personal Device Care | Personal Hygiene and Grooming | Sexual Activity | Care of Others | Care of Pets | Child Rearing | Communication Management | Driving and Community Mobility | Financial Management | Health Management and Maintenance | Home Establishment and Maintenance | Meal Preparation and Clean Up | Religious and Spiritual Activities and Expressions | Safety Procedures and Emergency Responses | Shopping | Rest and Sleep | Education | Work | Play | Leisure | Social Participation

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Do You Work Exclusively With A Geriatric Population Which Demographic Groups Benefit From Ot

Shannen: The short answer is no, but the longer answer is that typically yes I do usually work with the geriatric population. I work strictly with adults and primarily work with patients 65 and older however, I have had a handful of patients that are in their 20s as well as many individuals in their 30s to 50s.

Key Features Of Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapist definition poster

The term occupation is used by occupational therapists to refer to everything we do to take care of ourselves and others, to socialize and have fun, to work and learn, and engage in and contribute to our community and society.

Our jobs are the things we do to fill our days with activities that have value and a purpose. Occupational therapists are professionals in enabling you to enjoy life to the fullest despite difficulties or restrictions and are aware of how crucial these routine tasks are to all of us.

Regarding youngsters, the emphasis will be on encouraging growth, developing independent skills, and facilitating participation in early vocations like play and school. Occupational therapists know the impact that illness, injury, disability, or difficult life circumstances and events can have on peoples capacity to carry out the tasks that are important to them daily. They know how to assist them in achieving their highest possible level of independence and autonomy.

Occupational therapists are professionals in determining how various health issues might impair peoples skills and supporting them in overcoming or navigating the challenges that interfere with their jobs and duties. Occupational therapy emphasizes a persons abilities, and the clients preferences are always considered.

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What Surprised You Most About The Program You Attended

Shannen: I think I was most surprised about the amount of time I would need to allocate to studying and applying the information outside of the classroom. I was thankful to have had prior knowledge of the environment/context of campus since I went there for undergrad. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of exposure I received during clinical fieldworks in a variety of different occupational therapy settings .

How Did You Find The Job Market In Your Field After Graduation Did Ots Seem To Be In Demand And If So In What Practice Settings

Shannen: I thankfully did not have any difficulty in securing a job prior to graduating from OT school.

I would advise current students to look into completing at least one of their Level 2 fieldworks in the geographical area they presume they may want their first job to be in.

My former clinical fieldwork instructor played an immense role in me achieving the full-time position at a relatively new acute inpatient rehab unit around the area where I completed my final student rotation. I chose and wanted to work there due to it being within a hospital setting as well as due to there being multiple occupational therapists available to help me transition from my occupational role as student to clinician.

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Occupational Employment And Wage Statistics

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Discharge From Occupational Therapy

Physical Therapist Shows How to Walk Correctly

After a certain point, patients will be discharged from OT. When someone is discharged from occupational therapy treatment, it means that they no longer need the skilled oversight of a therapist to continue making progress.

However, it does not necessarily mean the road to recovery is over.

When its time to discharge, OTs often provide additional education to help patients continue therapy on their own. This might involve issuing a home exercise program or providing additional training and resources to family members and/or caregivers.

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Required Skills For An Occupational Therapist

Although occupational therapists come from various backgrounds, a few essential abilities and traits are ideally suited to the field. For instance, these professionals must possess a strong sense of compassion and empathy to act in the patients best interests. In actuality, the desire to improve the lives of others is what attracts many occupational therapists to this field of employment.

To succeed in the industry, occupational therapists must possess several talents and a people-oriented perspective. Some of these are:

  • Strong written and verbal communication skills are necessary for occupational therapists to fully comprehend their patients requirements and outline the course of therapy. They also need to work closely with other healthcare professionals and be able to document treatment plans and progress accurately.
  • Problem-solving: Since no two situations will ever be the same, skilled occupational therapists must have great problem-solving abilities to choose the most appropriate course of action in each special circumstance.
  • Patience and flexibility are necessary since occupational therapy patients might take a long time to regain independence. Good OTs must be understanding and adaptable when handling the high and low moments during this process.

As A Family With Both Spouses Working In Patient Care Has Your Husbands Career Path Influenced Your Own Work Experience

Shannen: My husband is an incoming medical intern therefore, his career has not quite influenced mine because his career is just beginning. But, I will say that my husbands work ethic and compassionate nature definitely inspire me he actually completed a fourth year of med school month-long clinical rotation in physiatry at the unit I work at which was quite a cool experience because we were covering the same patients.

I think it is very beneficial in my opinion to have a spouse who also is in healthcare because it provides an atmosphere of understanding that the other has probably had a series of high highs and low lows .

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What Does An Occupational Therapist Do For Adults

What does an occupational therapist do for adults? A lot! Their services are not limited to any age group but are for people of all ages. An occupational therapist therapeutically uses daily activities to help people live fully. Occupational therapy promotes health and either prevents or helps you to live better with an injury, illness, or disability. Lets discuss the benefits of an occupational therapist for your health and wellbeing.

Where Do Ots Work

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

OTs address physical and mental health in clients across the lifespanfrom newborns to older adults.

As you can imagine, this means we work in a number of different settings and locations.

To give you an idea of how the approximately 130,000 occupational therapist jobs and 50,000 occupational therapy assistant and aid jobs are distributed across settings, here are the percentages. This graph is derived from the AOTA 2015 Salary and Workforce Survey.

Here are links to more info on each setting:

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What Difficulties Did You Encounter During The Application Process How Did You Overcome Them

Shannen: At the time, there was a program for advanced undergraduates to apply during their third year of undergrad to start their first year of OT graduate-level curriculum during their fourth year of undergrad.

My difficulty stemmed from toying with the idea of if I would even be able to adequately balance the demands of graduate school with playing a collegiate sport . Thankfully, I met with my coach and team who offered support and encouragement with their positive remarks in mind, I just went for it and did not think twice.

Spoiler alert: I got in with the support of my family and friends somehow through my teammates graces and a coach who was willing to allow me to practice sometimes at alternate times of day, I successfully balanced the two demands.

Read A Brief Summary Of This Topic

occupational therapy, use of self-care and work and play activities to promote and maintain health, prevent disability, increase independent function, and enhance development. Occupation includes all the activities or tasks that a person performs each day. For example, getting dressed, playing a sport, taking a class, cooking a meal, getting together with friends, and working at a job are considered occupations. Participation in occupations serves many purposes, from taking care of oneself and interacting with others to earning a living, developing skills, and contributing to society.

An occupational therapist works with persons who are unable to carry out the various activities that they want, need, or are expected to perform. Therapists are skilled in analyzing daily activities and tasks, and they work to construct therapy programs that enable persons to participate more satisfactorily in daily occupations. Occupational therapy intervention and the organization of specific therapy programs are coordinated with the work of other professional and health care personnel.

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Types Of Ot Specializations

The scope of occupational therapy is very broad. For this reason, many practitioners opt to pursue advanced certification in specific areas of interest.

Common areas of specialization include:

  • Assistive Technology
  • Low Vision Therapy

One way to specialize is to earn an additional certification, which is usually denoted by additional letters following the occupational therapy designation. All of these letters can begin to look like an alphabet soup, even to fellow healthcare professionals.

The post Where to Go with an OT Degree gives you a more in-depth breakdown of the different areas and what it takes to obtain certification. I also have a post called Your Guide to COTA Certifications and Specialties, which gives an in-depth look at where occupational therapy assistants can go with their own careers.


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