Happy OT month everyone! Occupational therapy practitioners all over the country are celebrating April as Occupational Therapy Month by promoting the profession and educating others on occupational therapy’s role in society.

Almost all OTs that you meet are passionate about their work, and for good reason. You’ve probably heard an OT say, “I love my job,” or “it doesn’t even seem like work.” As occupational therapy practitioners, we have the opportunity to help people across the lifespan to participate in the things they want and need to do. We call the things that our clients want and need to do their occupations, the things that occupy their day.

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Many people are confused that occupational therapy is only vocational or work-related. Why would a toddler need occupational therapy? There are child labor laws! Why would an 85-year-old man need occupational therapy? He’s been retired for years! Occupation is not limited to work. Occupation is defined as active engagement in purposeful and meaningful activity. There are eight total areas of occupation that are included in the occupational therapy practice framework:

  1. Activities of Daily Living - basic skills to care for oneself
  2. Instrumental Activities of Daily Living - complex skills for caring for self and others
  3. Education - formal and informal learning
  4. Work - employment and volunteer
  5. Play - organized or spontaneous
  6. Leisure - activities that are purely for enjoyment and are non-obligatory
  7. Social Participation - interaction with family, friends, and the community
  8. Sleep and Rest - preparing for and achieving sleep/rest

Occupational therapy aims to re-mediate difficulties in one or more areas of occupation, for individuals of all ages and various disabilities. Here are just a few examples of the various settings and situations where occupational therapy is utilized:

  • Coach the parents of an infant with Down Syndrome how to support their child’s motor development and play skills
  • Help a child with autism to participate in school and social situations
  • Assist a person recovering from a spinal cord injury to regain their self care skills
  • Aid in rehabilitation following a traumatic brain injury for return to the work force
  • Facilitate independence and safety for an older adult to remain living at home

Occupational therapy treatment is based on the therapeutic use of activities while supporting our clients’ physical, cognitive, and psychological well-being. When a client is motivated to participate (e.g. a child playing with a favorite toy, or an adult following a yummy cooking recipe), that occupation is used to improve the client’s functioning in a particular way. OT is fun for the client and for the therapist!

Our professional association, AOTA, has a brand called “Occupational Therapy: Living Life to Its Fullest”. That catchy phrase is precisely our goal for our clients - that they reach their maximum potential in all of their endeavors. As OTs, we want to help in any way we can.

If you have any questions about occupational therapy or want to know more, ask your OT practitioner or check out the American Occupational Therapy Association website: www.aota.org.