For millions of people, the service of occupational therapy is a lifeline. Occupational therapists help individuals achieve independence in their lives despite disabilities.
While the term "occupational therapy" is often misinterpreted as employment-oriented, therapists actually work with people of all ages who need specialized assistance to lead productive and satisfying lives because of physical, developmental, social, or emotional problems.
"The word ‘occupation’ means an activity that occupies our time," explains Karen Foster, occupational therapist and Coffey County Hospital Rehabilitation Department supervisor. "A child has the occupation of learning. An adult may need to learn how to write after a traumatic injury. A senior may want be independent with activities of daily living such as dressing, so they can remain in their own home. All of these things are occupations and participating in them is vital to maintaining overall health."
People of all ages receive occupational therapy to help them participate in the activities of daily life. Sometimes people need occupational therapy to do things that most of us take for granted, like getting dressed, being productive at school or work, eating unassisted, even socializing.
Occupational therapy doesn't just treat medical conditions, it helps people stay engaged in the activities that give them pleasure or a sense of purpose, despite challenges.
Occupational therapists do this by helping people surmount their disabilities or medical conditions to do everyday things. The nature of the therapy depends on the individual and their environment; occupational therapists consider the whole person when developing a therapy plan. Occupational therapists collaborate with physicians and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive approach.
Children, for instance, sometimes have behavioral or developmental problems that limit their educational progress. Lawmakers believe occupational therapy is so important to the well-being of children, federal law mandates that schools must offer occupational therapy to children who need it.
Occupational therapy is "outcome-oriented," which means therapists help clients work toward achievable performance goals.
In rehabilitation clinics or hospitals, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help adults learn or regain skills that allow them to do meaningful things like working, driving, shopping, even preparing a meal. All types of people need this kind of help everyday, from a worker injured on the job to a grandparent recovering from surgery or a stroke.
Occupational therapy research also proves that keeping people active and healthy as they age will not only improve their quality of life, it will lower their health care costs as well.
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