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So What is an Occupational Therapist Anyway?

What is an Occupational Therapist anyway? I often crack a joke when talking to a group of parents by saying something like, “No I’m not counseling your children their careers.” This a pretty general explanation for a fascinating career! What is occupational therapy (OT)? The word occupation has a broader meaning in the definition of OT. To OTs, occupation also means purposeful activity (what a person spends time doing such as performing daily tasks). Different roles, in a person’s life, bring different occupations such as student, parent, elder, worker, and children. Young children’s (Early Start and Head Start) jobs are to be players of toys and explorers. Older children are students and learn from more from text and writing etc.

What do OTs do? *OTs can have expertise in assisting with :

  • Neurological (nerves)

  • Muscular (muscles) Motor (movement)

  • Fine motor- involves smaller muscles

  • Gross motor – involves larger muscles

  • Hand skills – coordinated use of hands separately, together and coordinated with vision Visual Skills/Visual Processing

  • Eating skills- the motor and sensory aspects of eating

  • Sensory Processing – tactile, proprioception, and vestibular skills

  • Emotional development – mastery over challenges, self-calming and more…

Types of service:

  • Evaluation

  • Consultation

  • Adaptation and special equipment

  • OTs can work in many settings with the main goal of having and keeping people as independent as possible in their role or occupation(purposeful activity).

For example, within a preschool setting, an OT would look at what is standing in the way of the child playing, exploring and learning to socialize with peers. In elementary school, it is generally supporting letters, and writing and maneuvering the school building. In middle school and high school OTs also focus on supporting prevocational skills and/or independence in self-care and life skill tasks. So how did I become an OT? Well because I was naturally helping David as a sibling. I was drawn to helping him learn something that he interested in no matter what, we had to at least try and then adapt it if needed. I’m still managing to do this 30 some years later with others. What a joy it brings me. Now I’m excited to reach out and help you see abilities and how children really already know what they need. Let’s have some fun along the way!

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