During the month of April, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) celebrates Occupational Therapy Month and the more than 213,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students who work nationwide to create fuller lives for clients and their families. This blog will look at the basics of occupational therapy (OT), reasons you may need OT, and a section specifically for OT for the visually impaired. Information from this blog can be found at WHAT IS OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY? and Occupational Therapy Services for Persons With Visual Impairment.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Your life is made up of occupations—meaningful everyday activities. These occupations can include many roles, such as being a parent, a friend, a spouse, a tennis player, an artist, a cook, or a musician. We generally do not think about our daily occupations until we have trouble doing them. Everyone has occupations—from the toddler whose occupations are play and learning to develop important skills, to the older adult whose occupations are engaging with family and friends and managing his or her home. If you are recovering from an accident or injury, your valued occupations may be disrupted. Occupational therapy incorporates your valued occupations into the rehabilitation process.
Occupational therapy practitioners are either occupational therapists or occupational therapy assistants. They are skilled health care professionals who use research and scientific evidence to ensure their interventions are effective. With strong knowledge of a person’s psychological, physical, emotional, and social makeup, occupational therapy practitioners can evaluate how your condition (or risk for one) is affecting your body and mind, using a holistic perspective.
OT is covered by most health insurance plans. Ask your physician about a referral for occupational therapy services or look for a private practice in your community. Talk to your child’s teacher about occupational therapy services at school.
Reasons You May Need OT
Imagine if an accident, injury, disease, or condition made it difficult for you to participate in your daily activities. A wrist injury means that getting dressed in the morning is painful. Arthritis makes driving challenging. Autism may hinder a child from interacting effectively with classmates. A traumatic brain injury keeps a wounded warrior out of active duty because of difficulties with memory and organizational skills. Or a small change in your activities or the environment could prevent a future condition (such as using ergonomics at work to avoid injury).
An occupational therapy practitioner will keep the focus on the things you need and want to do—your goals, your activities, your independence. With occupational therapy services you can:
- Achieve goals, such as helping your teenager with a developmental disability gain the skills to transition from high school to independent living as an adult.
- Stay as healthy and productive as possible, while managing a chronic medical condition.
- Maintain or rebuild your independence, such as using assistive devices so you can care for yourself after a stroke.
- Participate in the everyday activities important to you, such as driving, visiting friends, going to church, and other activities that keep you involved with your community.
In short, an occupational therapy practitioner can help you live life to its fullest no matter your health condition, disability, or risk factors.
OT for Persons with Visual Impairment
20.6 million Americans report experiencing vision impairment or blindness (Blackwell, Lucas, & Clarke, 2014). It is one of the top 10 disabilities among adults over age 18 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015).
Older adults with visual impairment are three to four times more likely than adults with normal vision to experience difficulties completing instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), such as preparing a meal, managing medications, and utilizing community mobility options (Crews & Campbell, 2004).
Occupational therapy practitioners work to ensure that older adults are able to age in place and participate in their communities despite visual impairment. Occupational therapy practitioners are also part of coordinated rehabilitation teams that enable working age adults with visual impairment to acquire or continue independent living and productive employment.
Occupational therapy practitioners also apply their expertise with adaptive devices and assistive technology to enable older adults to use optical and non-optical devices to complete ADLs. The practitioner, for example, may work with the person to use a prescribed optical device such as a hand-held magnifier to complete shopping, or a non-optical device such as a talking glucometer to complete diabetes self-management.
Occupational therapy services for persons with low vision may be provided in any setting, including early intervention environments, schools, skilled nursing or other extended care facilities, rehabilitation centers, specialty clinics, community-based programs, and the person’s home.