Imagine the amount of work necessary for an individual who has survived a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury to relearn necessary daily tasks. These individuals may have to relearn how to do something as seemingly simple as brushing their teeth or buttoning their shirts. Their muscles may have forgotten how to climb stairs. The use of fine motor skills, such as those used to hold a spoon to eat cereal, may also be a challenge. In every way the skills involved in necessary daily functions have been altered.
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Now imagine a six-year-old boy with autism. The boy may struggle to stay focused on classroom material and have a difficult time sitting still at his desk, which in turn affects his ability to learn. He may also struggle with social interactions, having a difficult time making eye contact or interacting with his peers. Finally, imagine an 85-year-old woman who lives independently. While she is not disabled, she may begin having a difficult time driving, climbing stairs, and even bathing herself due to her advanced age. There are, however, some exercises and strategies she can engage in to prevent injury or disability.
The job of an occupational therapist is to assist all three of these individuals, along with people with a wide array of other disabilities. An occupational therapist helps people of all ages and with all different types of disabilities and challenges get back to the life activities that they need to resume following their disability. OTs also work with those individuals who are at risk of developing disabilities. These professionals focus on intervention that will assist disabled people function independently in their homes and their communities. This may include helping these individuals learn how to take care of themselves independently, manage their own homes, and enter the community independently. Occupational therapists use different intervention approaches to promote, establish, or maintain skills, as well as to help individuals use compensatory strategies or make adaptations to the environment so as to enable them to participate in meaningful activities.
What are the different employment settings an occupational therapist can work in?
The majority of occupational therapists today work in hospitals and school systems. However, they can also be employed in a wide variety of other settings including clinics, nursing homes, private practices, mental health hospitals, community-based settings, work settings, home health agencies, and travel companies.
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Occupational therapists have a great deal of job opportunities in the military as well, working with veterans who have sustained combat related injuries and the families of these veterans. Occupational therapists who work in the military may be assigned military hospitals, rehab centers, or posts or bases where military families and schools are located to provide services to their children.