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Definition
Occupational Therapy is rehabilitative therapy that uses the activities of everyday living to help people with physical or mental disabilities achieve maximum functioning and independence at home and in the workplace

 

What does OT address?
Occupational therapy addresses various functional areas that affect performance including:

  • Self help (dressing, feeding, grooming, toileting, etc.)
  • Functional mobility
  • Positioning
  • Communication
  • Sensory-motor processing
  • Life skills
  • Pre-vocational skills
  • Psychosocial adaptation for peer relations and recreation
  • Handwriting and other fine motor skills
  • Travel training
  • Environmental assessment and adaptation
  • Money management

 

Who can benefit from OT?
Occupational therapy benefits people of all ages, from infants to the elderly, and can improve functioning whether the disability results from a birth defect, accident, disease, aging, or drug or alcohol abuse. Occupational therapy is geared to the particular functional level and interests of the individual and can take place in a variety of settings, including hospitals, the disabled person's home, mental health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, schools, and the workplace.

 

OT vs. PT
Occupational therapy differs from physical therapy in that physical therapy deals chiefly with restoration of physical strength, endurance, coordination, and range of motion through such means as exercise, heat or cold therapy, and massage. Occupational therapy focuses on personal and work activities, both in helping people with disabilities to find ways to master these activities and in using these activities to continue the goals of physical therapy.

 

Types of Treatment
Occupational therapy can range from teaching someone with swallowing difficulty how to eat and drink safely to showing someone how to use special tools to put on shoes and socks, close zippers, and button shirts and blouses; from showing someone in a wheelchair how to do cooking and housekeeping from a seated position to advising on how to make structural alterations in a home that will help accommodate a disability; and from teaching someone who has lost an arm or leg how to drive a specially equipped automobile to helping someone with cerebral palsy-a disorder affecting muscle control-learn to use a computer to communicate and operate household equipment. Occupational therapists work with people with mental and emotional problems-such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia-to help them plan their activities in order to function more effectively in everyday life. Occupational therapy is also widely used with children with physical and mental disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy to autism and fetal alcohol syndrome (see Alcoholism).

 

History and Certification
The importance of activity as a means of regaining health and function had been known for centuries and had been especially used in the treatment of mental disabilities. However, occupational therapy only became established as a formal profession in 1917, when services were needed to help returning soldiers regain function after World War I (1914-1918). Occupational therapists have either a bachelor's or master's degree in occupational therapy. Training includes course work in biology, psychology, and the theory and practice of occupational therapy, including clinical experience. Following training, an occupational therapist must pass an examination administered by the National Board for the Certification of Occupational Therapists to become certified as a Registered Occupational Therapist (OTR).

 

As efforts grow to integrate people with disabilities into all areas of society, the profession of occupational therapy has been expanding. The occupational therapist consults with public and private agencies to help make their work environment more accessible to the disabled and the workplace more accident-free.

 

Contributed by Frank Allen Jones, Jr

 

 
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