Though occupational therapy has been around for a century, its purpose is often misunderstood by the general population. Occupational therapy seeks to help those afflicted by illness, injury or disability achieve a greater degree of independence by developing or relearning everyday life skills.
This may cover a wide range of activities. For example, an occupational therapist may work with a client with mental or physical disability to develop a self care routine including personal hygiene, self-dressing and eating. Or, the therapist might help someone hindered by illness or recovering from injury relearn basic life skills, whether it's working around constraints in mobility to recover their daily routine, or training their non-dominant hand to write, eat, clean or prepare food.
Occupational Therapy to Overcome Physical & Mental Limitations
The word "occupational" leads many to believe this form of therapy is restricted to job training exercises. While this is not necessarily true, occupational therapy is often used to help an individual overcome some degree of physical and/or mental limitations to engage in workplace tasks, which in many cases helps a person achieve a greater degree of financial independence in addition to self-care. An occupational therapist may even work with a client to develop skills in financial management, household maintenance, and sometimes the care of a child or pet.
The History of Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy dates back to 1917, when it was developed on the principle that a person maintaining daily activities and routines held curative properties due to increased morale and a feeling of personal sovereignty. In other word, by remaining occupied with self-care, work, and even dedicated leisure activities, a person dealing with illness or disability will gain psychological as well as physical benefits to practicing a wider range of skills to occupy their time.
In recent years, the practice has spawned a new discipline of occupational science, wherein practitioners spend years in study of an ever expanding range of techniques to treat children, adults and seniors to overcome a broader spectrum of impairments.
Occupational Therapy for Children With Developmental Issues
Occupational therapy is particularly effective in helping children with early developmental issues such as sensory processing disorder, delayed proprioceptive and motor skills, impaired coordination and balance, and social anxiety. A branch of auditory intervention therapy may help kids overcome auditory processing disorders, speech and language issues, learning disabilities, and tactile sensitivities, whether hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity.
The first steps taken by an occupational therapist is to meet with a client and their parents or caregivers to determine which issues to address, set a list of goals, and ascertain the best course of therapy to help attain those goals. Each individual case may involve different challenges and different objectives, but occupational therapists are trained to pursue best practice approaches to all their clients, and to help them achieve greater independence day by day, often to develop skills that will improve their quality of life for the rest of their lives.