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Shannon Schoellig, MS, OTR/L
Understanding Occupational Therapy
The Virginian

Understanding Occupational Therapy

So often occupational therapists are asked, “What is occupational therapy do you help people find jobs?” This question not only comes from clients and family members but other health care professionals as well. Holding a title of “Occupational Therapist” can be easily misunderstood, confused or questioned. It is time to clear the muddy waters and clarify, so the next time you hear occupational therapy, you won't have to ask what it is, you will be able to understand and educate others on what this profession represents.

Occupational therapy helps individuals, of all age groups, with the occupations of daily life. Some examples are getting out of bed, getting dressed, making breakfast, driving, taking care of others, leisure activities, playing, or going to school; the list is endless. Everything an individual does, all the activities that create a person's day, are defined as occupations.

Here are some examples of what occupational therapists can do

If someone has difficulty getting out of bed because of a hip replacement, an occupational therapist can provide education, techniques and adaptive equipment necessary so that individual can get out of bed independently.

If an individual has just had a shoulder replacement and is lacking the ability to dress themselves, an occupational therapist can work on range of motion and strengthening in that shoulder to achieve dressing without assistance.

If a child in school is unable to write his name or get his jacket on before recess due to decreased hand strength or impaired coordination, an occupational therapist may instruct and assist the child with techniques to help him or her succeed in those activities.

If a toddler is having difficulty eating with a spoon and fork because of developmental delays, an occupational therapist may work with the parents to help their child master the use of utensils.

Occupational therapists have been in existence for over 100 years and are found around the globe. The profession has evolved over time and is focused on providing client-centered care through evidence-based practice. Occupational therapists provide a unique service to all ages within the community. For more detailed information, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association at www.aota.org.

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