What’s an Occupational Therapist? We have the information to help you!

Back to blogOne year ago by Renee
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A female Occupational Therapist measuring a young child with cerebral palsy's arm
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Shedding light on new possibilities is what occupational therapy (OT) is all about.

For those living with disabilities, the more an occupational therapist knows about them the more real change they can bring to their quality of life.

The ‘occupation’ in OT isn’t necessarily about work. An occupation is any activity that’s meaningful, and can be different for each person.

For people with disability that can be anything from working on a daily living skill, such as getting dressed in the morning, using cutlery or learning handwriting, to adapting or modifying a person’s environment to improve safety or participation.

The goal is ensuring that the person can actually do the activity that they want to do.

Jane Berry, Consultant for Occupational Therapy at Cerebral Palsy Alliance said OTs work hard to set goals with their clients, families and carers.

“We don’t necessarily do what we, the therapist, think is important, it’s very much a client-led approach. There really is that process of goal setting and working out what’s important for that particular person. We use a lot of assessments to understand a person’s abilities and needs, then work with them to achieve their goals using evidence based interventions,” Jane said.

Therapy can also include the use of assistive technologies.

“Occupational Therapists often trial or recommend a range of assistive technologies. This may involve equipment so that the client can use their computer, or a home automation device so they can switch the lights on in their house or open their front door,” Jane said.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the OT’s work is seeing someone’s face light up with new understanding, new awareness, and a sense of what the future might hold.

“When you’re working alongside someone and working on goals that are meaningful for them, it’s amazing seeing changes in their quality of life and really seeing the difference in them and their family,” Jane said.

OT can help a person of any age, across a diverse range of issues, by addressing the factors that are hindering their ability to participate as fully as possible in life.

“There is a lot of problem solving, and you have to think outside the square. Often you’re doing things that you’ve never done before and every day can be very unique and different,” Jane said.

“When we work with children who aren’t able to walk, or walk long distances, often we’ll work with that client to assist them to access powered mobility. This can be quite a complex process, particularly when they can’t use a standard joystick function. So we have to look at other ways they could move, maybe helping them learn how to use their powered mobility through switches or head control. We go through a series of skill based learning, just like a child would when learning to walk.”

“One client is practising how to use his head to move his powered wheelchair at school, so he can have a typical experience like other kids going from class to class, and participating fully in the classroom. This is assistive technology plus skill-based learning in order to achieve his goal,” she said.

Learning to analyse the spectrum of possibility and then helping this come to life, OT is an integral part of unlocking a world of opportunity and possibilities for people living with disability.

Contact Cerebral Palsy Alliance today to find out more about the supports and services we provide to individuals living with disability on 1300 888 378