“ Occupational therapy (OT) is an applied science and health profession that provides skilled treatment to help individuals develop, regain or maintain the skills necessary to participate in all facets of their lives. OT gives people the "skills for the job of living" necessary for living meaningful and satisfying lives. Services typically include: Customized treatment programs to improve one's ability to perform daily activities / Comprehensive home and job site evaluations with adaptation recommendations / Performance skills assessments and treatment / Adaptive equipment recommendations and usage training / Guidance to family members and caregivers. „
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I have spent many years in contact with occupational therapists as health and social care practitioners and as educators. In that time I have learned much about what makes an OT.
Occupational therapists have created a strange position for themselves in the health and social services. What they appear to do appears so mundane and ordinary that everyone thinks they can do it. In practice they find themselves carrying out such a huge range of tests, analyses and assessments that they can never attend to all the demands placed upon them.
The real strength of the therapist is their capacity to understand the importance of activity (occupation) for the individual. To recognise the impact that engagement in the activity has for a person, their own motivation, their values and the meaning of the activity. This requires an in depth understanding of activities, an understanding of the human being in terms of anatomy/physiology, the social context in which we live and the psychology of motivation, development and many more areas.
In combining these skills with those of an architect (in redesigning living spaces), or a teacher (to retrain following injury), a counsellor (in dealing with trauma or anxiety) one can begin to see what a complex profession this can be.
The OT is not just there to give someone something to do but a very important member of a team. This requires 3 years of education and even then a graduate may spend a number of years developing specialist skills to work in their field of choice.
They have the opportunity to work in physical health or mental health, community care or hospital based. They work with the elderly or neonatal care and everyone in between. OTs can be found in prisons, GP surgeries and in schools or charities. The variety is as endless as the imagination.
This is a profession which offers much and is undervalued in our society. This is the diamond lost in the NHS.
I was born with mild cerebral palsy. It wasn't diagnosed until I was 3 when a CT scan confirmed what my parents suspected. Over my years I have seen numerous specialists and health professionals, the majority of which, have helped me tremendously in leading a 'normal' life. Occupational therapy and the OTs (occupational therapists) have provided the most support and assistance with performing day to day experiences and I cannot praise them highly enough. This review will cover what they do and my experiences.
*******What is occupational therapy ******
Occupational therapy is the assessment and treatment of physical and psychiatric conditions using specific, purposeful activity to prevent disability and promote independent function in all aspects of daily life.
Occupational therapists work in hospital and various community settings. They may visit clients and their carers at home to monitor their progress. When a course of therapy is completed, the therapist will analyse how effective it has been.
They work with all ages from young children through to the elderly and assess each patients needs in an individualistic, holistic and thoughtful way. In my experience most of the OTs I have seen have been extremely capable of divergent thinking and problem solving. They seem to have a caring nature and the persistence to keep trying.
******My experiences ******
I started seeing an occupational thereapist at around 5 years old when I started a main stream school. I can't really explain how they have assisted me until I explain my disability so please bare with me.
Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term used to 'label' brain damage suffered before, during or shortly after birth. The range of brain damage experienced is very broad. It can lead to peoblems in motor function, speech, hearing, sight, learning difficulties and more serious problems like trouble breathing, digesting food and control of any muscle group in the body. Luckily for me my cerecbral palsy is at the milder end of the scale. I have weakness in all four limbs but more noticably on my right side. I also have problems with balance and co-ordination as well a difficulty in speech and swallowing when younger. I also tire very easily as a result of the extra effort needed to perform everyday tasks.
I did not manage to walk until I was 3 and a half although doctors said I may never have managed. I walked with an uneven gait and at 5 still could not hold a pencil in my right hand (naturally right handed) I learnt with a lot of persistence from my family to write left handed. This however meant that sometimes I failed to see the right side of my body. Occupational therapy at this age was one long play session that I remember enjoying. Building towers of bricks with both hand, making cookies so I had to use both hand together. Walking along a bench to improve my balance. As I got older the Occupational therapy team suggested the use of a computer and I got my very own BBC computer in the classroom to take the pressure off.
It wasn't until my teens that other issues really came up for me and I saw an occupational therapist again. This was mainly to do with equipment to help ease my pain. I struggled sitting for a long enough period to sit my exams so special chairs with neck and arm rests were tried out. I think it took around five chairs to find one which suited my needs but the occupational therapist was both optimistic and encouraging.
Probably because of this I took on a work experience placement with a team of occupational therapists and physio therapists in a stroke rehabilitation unit. Here I experienced OT from the other side of the coin and was equally as impressed. Quite often the solurions to issues are incredibly simple but have been over looked by other specialists. One story that sticks in my mind was a lady (in her 50s) who had suffered a stroke but was doing amazingly well and was so positve. She had severe weakness down her left side as a result of her stroke yet had managed to learn to walk again and make a cup of tea. She was so upset by the fact that she could make a cup of tea but was unable to carry it from table to the seating area. I told the OT on her case and immediately they found her a trolley. This ladies face lit up and I have never forgotten. She was too embarassed that the problem wasn't big enough to mention that she had resigned to living with it. This amazing lady and others like her made me want to train as an OT too. The work was not a life and death emergency but the improvement to someone's quality of life you can make is enormous.
Unfortunately I haven't (yet) been able to train as an OT due to the decelopment of seizures at 15 but I am still very impressed by this worthwhile career.
As an adult I have seen Occupational therapists many times in various settings. As an in patient in hospital where I have had to relearn basics like making a cup of tea and a sandwhich, climbing out of bed without injurying myself and bathing. In the community through home visits where they have supplied and suggested all kinds of useful equipment to make my life that little bit easier. They have suggested and provided everything from potato peelers and pronged chopping boards, bath aids and perch stools and health and safety tips about how to prevent being seriously injured when I have a seizure. The help they have given me is priceless and the support I so desperately needed. I was really weak with a 2 year old boy to look after and couldn't even dress myself. I had given up and was no longer optimistic but the occupational therapists persisted and rebuilt both my confidence and physical ability.
***** Other aspects of OT ****
The one side of OT I have not personally experienced is work in the mental health field. This is based more on the prevention of disability through teaching new skills and the rebuilding of comfidence. For a variety of reason people suffering from mental health problems find everyday taks difficult and lose their confidence. They may struggle to feel useful. Aid someone who is struggling to make a cup of tea or cook a meal, which they felt they could no longer do, and the confidence boost would be enormous.
Sorry for the long review but I hope it was useful. In my opinion Occupational Therapists, Orthotics and Physiotherapists are the hidden gems of the NHS. Working hard to maintain and enhance a positive attitude and problem solving ability.
(Some of the above information was found at http://www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/details/Default.aspx?Id=284 )
Occupational therapy (OT) is an applied science and health profession that provides skilled treatment to help individuals develop, regain or maintain the skills necessary to participate in all facets of their lives. OT gives people the "skills for the job of living" necessary for living meaningful and satisfying lives. Services typically include: Customized treatment programs to improve one's ability to perform daily activities / Comprehensive home and job site evaluations with adaptation recommendations / Performance skills assessments and treatment / Adaptive equipment recommendations and usage training / Guidance to family members and caregivers.