Occupational Therapists: What Do They Really Do?
The role of an Occupational Therapist (OT) is always questioned when mentioned in conversation.There are many different types of OT: child, adult, home health, outpatient, etc. They work hand in hand with physical therapists, speech therapists, psychologists and often counselors. People always seem to ask: "Is it like Physical therapy?" "Does it only deal with a person's occupation?" etc.
Well, as I was researching the role of an OT, it was hard to find one simplified definition that would cover all aspects of occupational therapy. As I continued my search, I ran across a blog page that was discussing OT month, the month of April, and their topic was "How Kids Explain Occupational Therapy". A very unique post about the encounters of an OT specialist who generally works in a home health setting, strengthening children's abilities. She shared some conversations with children and parents and their views and responses to what they thought OT was. It is evident that many people actually have NO clue what OT specialists do and that during child interventions, a parents perception usually reflects on their children's. An example from her post was:
I figured I would just ask the simple question: “Do you know what occupational therapy is?” The children tried their best to answer this difficult question:Child 1: “When you write letters?” (This poor guy was searching so hard for the correct answer.)Child 2: “When you work on your visual skills.” (We mostly focus on visual-perception with this child, so bonus points for him.)Child 3: “When you play in the gym.” (There goes that whole gym teacher stereotype again.)Child 4: “When you make me do writing.” (This kind of makes me sound super mean.)Child 5: “It’s a place you go to learn things.” (When I asked him what kinds of things, he was pretty certain that he could learn everything in OT. What a cool kid.)Child 6: “Where you do fun things!” (Yes! I think this is the new Pediatric OT motto! Hey, it’s certainly better than “OT: Where we make you do writing.”)
Majority of people get confused because so much of what OT professionals do is based in a person's "occupations," or their meaningful daily tasks. When you work with children, their main occupations include play. Many times it looks like they are just playing around, but every therapeutic technique/assessment has a purpose. Even then, there is still an unanswered question as to what they really do.
Will people's perception of what OT do always be different? Everyone has different psychosocial aspects that affect the context of how they perceive things. A simple definition, in my own words, is that OT use a holistic approach when targeting the needs of individuals when developing, recovering or maintaining their daily lives and work skills; whether it be physical, mental or a developmental condition.