Here in Canada, October is Occupational Therapy Month. I've been using this time to reflect on the things that I love about occupational therapy (OT), and to share what kinds of things OTs can help families with.
“Occupational therapy practitioners ask,
“What matters to you?”
not, “What’s the matter with you?”
-Virginia Stoffel (OT)
DAILY LIVING SKILLS
One of the biggest areas that OTs help with is Daily Living Skills. These are often self-care tasks that we want or need to get done in the day: dressing, sleeping, eating, toileting, and hygiene.
OT's focus on building skills and comfort so that you can complete daily living skills with the support you need. We also may target specific motor skills or coach caregivers on ways to increase independence.
Another fun area that OT's work with is motor skill development. For kids, this can be meeting your goal of being able to cross the monkey bars or climbing a tree - but not through sit-ups or lifting weights. OTs help to build fine and gross motor skills through play.
A big part of the way that I work on motor skills is to focus on function. That means being able to open up your lunch kit containers and not worrying so much about how you hold a pencil or if you can print letters. Read more about my stance on fine motor skills in this POST.
Sensory processing is a BIG part of what OT's help families understand. There are 8 senses in the body, and we all react to them differently. Sensory processing is involved in everything kids do in a day; from sliding down the slide, playing in the dirt, navigating noise, and eating.
Everyone has differences in the way they process sensory information, but if it's getting in the way of your happiness and your day, that's when OT's get involved.
“Occupational therapy is where science, creativity & compassion collide.”
- Jessica Kensky (OT)
One of my favourite things to support clients and their families with is emotional regulation. While we typically relate dysregulation to being mad or having a meltdown, it also refers to being excited, silly, sad, or elated.
Each approach and each family is different, keeping OTs on their toes. The key to co-regulating another person is getting on their level, validating emotions, and then effectively shifting energy. Heard of flight, fight, and freeze? Read more HERE.
OTs work in a variety of settings with people of all types of abilities. Working together with families to identify what matters to them is the best part of the job - but the hours and hours of play don't hurt either.