“V” is for vision, specifically low vision.
OTs can address low vision across all populations. There are many aspects of vision beyond the scope of 20/20 visual acuity. Vision also requires cognition. Are we able to see the change from carpet to hard wood flooring in our homes? Are we able to see each step going up or down the stair case so we don’t fall? Can a student copy what’s written on the board at school without teary eyes (fatigue) or pain? How sensitive are one’s eyes to light? Are both eyes working together? Vision is all-encompassing and there are SO many aspects that go into what we see and perceive.
So as OTs, we can help to strengthen the eyes to minimize fatigue. We can provide compensatory strategies via in-home modifications to prevent falls (putting bright colored tape at the edge of each stair to make each stair distinguishable). We can educate teachers on strategies to promote success in the classroom so a child can go through the school day without getting a headache.
Because occupational therapy is such a holistic field of health care, all of these components are within our scope of practice which is super exciting to me!
Only a few more letters until the OT alphabet is complete!
“U” is for universal design!
Universal design is a term to describe an environment that is accessible to everyone no matter their age, size, or ability/disability.
This means have accessibility to all public buildings (i.e. ramps available for wheelchairs).
This means having a playground accessible for all children even if they are in a wheelchair.
This means having push buttons near doors so that going in/out of a building can be done independently.
This means having Braille throughout public buildings that provide understanding of the environment.
This means having those tiny little bumps (called “tactile paving”) at the ends of sidewalks so individuals who are blind know when they are about to step out into a road.
This means having a sand table at appropriate height available out on the playground so children in a wheelchair can play in the sand with their peers.
The list goes on forever.
For OTs, we are advocates for universal design. We make sure that environments are accessible for everyone. We make sure to advocate for universal design when new community playgrounds are being built. We remind the decision-makers in big plans that accessibility is key (and within the law). Universal design is essential and it is our responsibility to promote that within all contexts.
“S” is for “sock aid”, also known as “sock donner”.
A sock aid is an adaptive device used to help individuals put on socks! The sock aid is beneficial for individuals with arthritis who have limited range of motion to bend down and put on socks. Additionally, it can be beneficial for individuals with poor motor planning who may experience difficulty knowing how to put on their socks.
How it works: you put the sock over top the end piece so that there is an opening for your foot. Slip your foot inside and pull the strings/straps. The sock stays on the foot and the end piece is ready again to put on the second sock!
Here is a picture of my friends practicing with the sock aid!
“R” is for research…..dreaded research.
As the health care field constantly changes, research becomes more and more important. OTs are responsible to stay up-to-date with the latest topics and evidence-based practice approaches for interventions. Additionally, research becomes important when working with a diagnosis you’ve never heard of to ensure clinical competence and adequate application of clinical reasoning.
As the semester unwinds, our first research experience is coming to a close. My group completed a literature review on the effectiveness of augmentative and alternative communication for promoting functional language development in children with autism. Research is tedious and can be monotonous at times but its implications for OT practice are imperative so it’s just something that I need to come to accept.
Also, I will be completing a research project next semester with my graduate assistantship supervisor (more on that once I know exactly what we will be doing).
All in all, research isn’t the best part of this field, but it comes with the territory. As our world continues to change, as technology becomes more advanced, and as new medical diagnoses are discovered and better understood, research becomes essential for continued competence in the health care field.
“Q” is for quality of life!
Occupational therapists strive to enhance quality of life for all clients. Quality of life involves being able to do what a person wants and needs to do – the essence of OT! What makes everyone’s quality of life different depends on what the person finds meaningful. We, as OTs, try to amplify quality of life as much as possible!
Additionally, it is important for OTs, as health care professionals, to maintain quality of life through occupational balance and self-care. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of education and job responsibilities. Quality of life may be hindered when self-care isn’t prioritized. Being able to find occupational balance in doing things that one finds enjoyable is equally as important as trying to augment someone else’s quality of life.
Letter “p” is for proprioception!
Proprioception is one’s awareness of one’s body in space. Proprioception is actually one of our eight senses… yes, there are eight. This is knowing how far to stay away from a wall so you’re not rubbing against it. This is knowing how how much strength to use when picking up a glass of water so that it doesn’t slip out of our hands. This is knowing how much pressure to use on a pencil when writing so the lead isn’t too light nor too dark.
Individuals with poor proprioception are often seen as clumsy – bumping into things, tripping frequently, and stomping while walking, among others. Proprioception can be improved with deep pressure (i.e. hand squeezes, being covered up in pillows, or being rolled on by someone else laying on top of a stability ball (true fact), etc). These are the “crash and burn” kids we may come into contact. These are the kids that crave proprioceptive input.
We learned about proprioceptive input during our sensory lab earlier this semester. Here is a picture of my friend, Erica, providing deep pressure with the stability ball and then me rolling through the steam roller!
“N” is for NBCOT – the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.
As of right now, I am an OTS (occupational therapy student). After I complete my didactic work and both Level II fieldworks, I will sit for my boards to become an OTR (registered occupational therapist). In order for my to “earn my R” I have to pass the NBCOT exam. The NBCOT is the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. The NBCOT is the governing body of registered OTs. In order for be to add those three little letters to the end of my name, I have to pass the NBCOT. No pressure. After I earn my “R”, I will apply for licensure in whichever states I want to practice. Once I obtain licensure I will be an OTR/L. So fancy!
I will probably be taking the NBCOT at the end of winter in 2021. I still have A LOT to learn between now and 2021, so this is a fleeting thought in my mind right now. I just wanted to explain the process to the Internet about what actually needs to be done in order for me to become an OT because I still feel like there’s a lot of confusion. I hope this has cleared things up. Happy Thursday!
“M” is for mental health!
As discussed in earlier letters of the alphabet, OTs work with a variety of diagnoses, some of which include mental health. OTs can work with individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD, and addictions, among countless others. OTs who work with these populations can work in community-based settings, in-patient settings, psychiatric hospitals, or prisons.
Even though some OTs specialize in the mental health field, because our continuum of care services is so broad, OTs in all settings may work with individuals with mental health diagnoses. OTs always view clients holistically; therefore, it is our responsibility to address mental health issues during treatment, if applicable.
For example, consider an individual who just had a stroke. He/she has lost significant independence in many occupations, including independently dressing, cooking, and playing tennis. An OT will teach them compensatory techniques for dressing, provide adaptive equipment for cooking and tennis in addition to addressing mental health issues that has recently developed because of the sudden change independence levels. If the individual is demonstrating signs of depression, we address it. If the individual is showing signs of anxiety to return home, we address it. What ever is happening “up there”, we can address it!
Mental health has effected everyone’s life in some shape or form whether directly or indirectly. OTs always treat clients holistically; therefore, it is an important aspect of our role as health care professionals.
“L” is for leisure – one of my favorite occupations to engage in!
Defined by the American Occupational Therapy Association (2014), leisure is “nonobligatory activity that is intrinsically motivated and engaged in during discretionary time”. In simple terms, leisure is what you engage in during your free time or for fun.
Leisure is important for self-care. Leisure can help us unwind after a stressful day. Leisure can provide us with opportunities to build relationships with others. Leisure can bring meaning and growth to our lives. Leisure can be healthy…and unhealthy.
For me, unsurprisingly, my two favorite leisure activities are running or biking. Engaging in these forms of leisure helps me destress, has provided me with countless friendships, and is healthy for my body. These activities are meaningful to me and I hope that they will be my favorite leisure activity for years to come!
What’s your favorite leisure activity?
“K” is for “knowledge”.
OTs acquire an array of knowledge in order to work with ages across the lifespan within a variety of settings. Currently, occupational therapy is an entry-level Master’s profession.
Graduate school provides education for all populations – pediatrics, adults, older adults for developmental diagnoses, physical diagnoses, and mental health diagnoses. Graduate school provides future OT practitioners with the general knowledge to work with any population in any setting; however, most OTs find a niche after grad school to develop unique, speciality skills within certain areas of practice.
That’s what makes OT unique! We can work with anyone and anywhere! The knowledge we acquire in graduate school sets up to pursue a career wherever we want which is super exciting. Additionally, OTs can switch populations/settings whenever they desire because their foundational knowledge will always be intact!
What knowledge have you gained so far from the ABCs of OT?!