Occupational therapy is one of the allied health professions. Occupational therapists help people regain their optimum function doing everyday activities.
The occupational therapist meets with a client to find out how best to help. The occupational therapist tailors a special program for each individual client. The program teaches the clients how to perform daily activities, or how to do them better. In addition, the occupational therapist evaluates the client’s home and perhaps the client’s work place or school. By doing so, the therapist is better able to recommend what kind of alterations must be made to accommodate the client in each setting.
Occupational therapists recommend specific equipment for clients’ use, to help them adapt to their surroundings. Training clients to use equipment safely and properly is part of the occupational therpaist’s job. Educating family members and caregivers about how they can help clients is another aspect of what an occupational therapist does for clients.
Occupational therapists take a holistic approach to helping their clients, one in which they view their clients and their environments both as interactive components. Training clients is as important as modifying the environments in which the clients spend their time. Clients are part of the therapy team in the view of the occupational therapist.
One of the less well-known aspects of occupational therapy is the role its practioners can play in disaster preparedness. Occupational therapists are a resource communities should rely on for help designing shelters. In addition, occupational therapists should be consulted to train staff and volunteers about how to aid disabled people during a crisis. Suzanne Pickering, an occupational therapist who served with disaster relief efforts at the World Trade Center in 2001 and in Florida in 2004 had this to say:
“The food served to people on special diets [because of conditions such as diabetes] was often difficult to obtain in shelters. Reaching the bathroom and bathing people with mobility limitations was a challenge.”
Programs to train for a career in occupational therapy are available in nearly every state. The accredited programs range from two-year college courses awarding an associate of arts degree in occupational therapy to doctoral-level programs, which are open to enrollment at regular intervals.
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