Occupational Therapy Month: Knowledge

Occupational Therapy Month: Knowledge

“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?!


Occupational Therapy Month: Just-Right Challenge

Occupational Therapy Month: Just-Right Challenge

Letter “j” is for the just-right challenge!

Occupational therapists are apparently masters of just-right challenges. A just-right challenge is exactly what it sounds like. It’s something that’s not too easy, nor too hard. The purpose of the just-right challenge is to give clients something that is within their current ability level. If the activity is too easy, they’ll assume we think they are incompetent and they’ll become bored and/or offended. If the activity is too hard, they may feel degraded, losing their belief in themselves to achieve what is meaningful to them.

With that in mind, it’s important to provide a just-right challenge. Not too easy. Not too hard. Somewhere in the middle. Somewhere where we can provide just enough challenge to promote continued growth in their ability.

Occupational Therapy Month: Independence

Occupational Therapy Month: Independence

Today is letter “I”. One of the most important “I” occupational therapy words is INDEPENDENCE!

OTs strive for client independence. This profession promotes independence in all areas of life. For the pediatric population, this might mean helping a child reach their developmental milestones so that they can move independently to explore and play. For the adult population, this might mean provide environmental control adaptations to spinal cord injury clients so that they can independently scroll through TV channels with their voice rather than using a remote. Car adaptations can be made so that an individual with double below-the-knee amputations can independently drive themselves to church, the grocery store, or a loved one’s house. An older adult recovering from total hip replacement may be taught how to use a sock donner so they can independently dress themselves. The list could go on forever, trust me.

Independence is the ultimate goal!

Occupational Therapy Month: Homonymous Hemianopsia

Occupational Therapy Month: Homonymous Hemianopsia

Today is letter “h” so I get to teach you about my favorite medical term to pronounce – homonymous hemianopsia (also known as homonymous hemianopia – without the “s”).

Homonymous hemianopsia is a condition involving loss of part of the visual field. To break it down, “homonymous” means “same side”. “Hemi-” means half. “Anopsia”means “defect in the visual field”. When you put it all together you have visual field defect on the same side of each half of the eye. The lack of peripheral sight of one side of both eyes becomes problematic in many instances.

As an example and from a clinical standpoint, an individual with homonymous hemianopsia could have have a visual defect within the right side of both eyes. The individual can’t see anything on their right side unless they move their entire head to utilize the left half of the eye. In other words, they “forget” about anything on the right. An individual with homonymous hemianopsia may be observed only eating food on the left side of their plate, completing neglecting the food on the right side of the plate. They may bump into walls that they don’t notice. Cutting vegetables with a knife in the right hand and the vegetable stabilized with the left hand becomes dangerous.

Occupational therapists can help individuals with homonymous hemianopsia by teaching them compensatory techniques. OTs can teach individuals with this visual field defect to turn their head/body to scan their entire environment.

Check out the picture below to get an understanding of homonymous hemianopsia. The picture on the left represents normal sight with no visual field deficits. The picture on the right represents an individual with right-sided homonymous hemianopsia. Do you see how this could be problematic?


Occupational Therapy Month: Gait

Occupational Therapy Month: Gait

Letter “g” is for GAIT!

From an occupational therapy standpoint, gait promotes functional mobility. For individuals who can walk, gait provides opportunities to explore the environment and complete tasks within the environment as needed.

It important to note that occupational therapists look at gait from a functional perspective. Is the individual able to ambulate to the bathroom without falling? Can they move around the kitchen to prepare a meal? Can a child ambulate from the classroom to the bus or playground? Gait assessments and gait improvements are in the realm of physical therapy, not OT; therefore, gait issues alone should be referred to PT. From a functional standpoint, OTs investigate how one’s gait affects one’s ability to complete necessary and meaningful tasks.

I leave you today with a picture of my friends walking (proper gait and all) which from a functional standpoint allowed them to get from lunch back to class.



Occupational Therapy Month: Fieldwork

Occupational Therapy Month: Fieldwork

Conveniently, letter “f” falls on the last day of my first Level I fieldwork placement. To celebrate, I’m posting that “f” is for fieldwork!

“Fieldwork” is the OT school term for internship, clinical, or rotation. All graduate OT programs require completion of fieldwork placements in compliance with ACOTE (Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education). Fieldwork placements provide students with the opportunity to go out into the a variety of settings to work with or alongside a fieldwork educator to apply what is being taught in the classroom. Fieldwork grants students the opportunity to experience application of occupational therapy in real life settings with clients.

Over the course of my time in the Master’s program at my grad school, I must complete four Level I placements and two Level II placements. For my Level I placements, I will have the opportunity to see occupational therapy practice with pediatrics, adults, older adults, and the mental health population. Level I placements, at my grad school specifically, take place in my second, third and fourth semesters once per week for 10 weeks (disclaimer: every OT program does their scheduling differently). As a student, Level I fieldwork placements involve a lot of observation and trying to connect what was taught in the classroom with what is seen in practice. During these placements, very little, if any, hands-on practice occurs because we are still in the process of learning everything we need to know.

After my academic classes are done (spring 2020), I will begin my Level II fieldwork placements. Level II placements take place five days per week for 12 weeks. For my graduate program, my first Level II placement will occur in the summer (of 2020), followed by my second Level II placement in the fall (of 2020). Level II placements can occur with any population within any setting. At this time, students are expected to competent in completing evaluations, creating interventions, and implementing clinical reasoning skills; therefore, hands-on practice occurs throughout the entire placement. Additionally, we are technically working under our fieldwork educator’s license.

In some instances, emerging fieldwork placements can occur. Just as the term depicts, “emerging” means that these placements are at locations that don’t yet have an OT but would benefit from having an OT hopefully in the future. With emerging placements, fieldwork educators could be facility directors, teachers, or other health professionals. Emerging placements help to advocate for our role in non-traditional OT settings.

I have just completed my first Level I fieldwork placement in a pediatric setting. I feel like the past 10 weeks have flown by and I have most definitely learned a lot from my experiences and opportunities. I am excited to learn where my next placement will be as I am most interested in working with adults or older adults in the future.

Occupational Therapy Month: Empathy

Occupational Therapy Month: Empathy

“E” is for empathy – an essential characteristic of occupational therapists.

Empathy is the ability to understand and/or share what others are going through or feeling. The ability to be empathetic is a key characteristic for OTs in order to develop rapport with clients. Actively listening to an individual’s worries about their current level of function or their sudden loss of independence is a distinguishable aspect of OT practice.

OTs often see clients in some of the scariest times of their lives. Sudden injuries, trauma, and functional changes, among other things, become the forefront of stress and worry for both the individual impacted and their loved ones. Recognizing these stressors and worries allows us to develop trust with our clients and their families so that we can work diligently to help them regain independence.

Often OTs use what is known as “therapeutic use of self” which is synonymous with empathy in some instances. OTs can provide therapy just being themselves by simply taking the time to fully understand and listen to what someone is going through.

It doesn’t take much to be empathetic but it sure can mean a lot to someone when they need it most.

Occupational Therapy Month: Developmental Milestones

Occupational Therapy Month: Developmental Milestones

Now that half of the OTs in America are done at conference in New Orleans, ABCs of OT are back in full swing!

Letter “d” is for developmental milestones.

Let me tell you something…. my ENTIRE spring semester has revolved around developmental milestones. For the pediatric population, accomplishment of developmental milestones provides opportunities for growth, exploration, and learning. Occupational therapists work to promote these milestones by recognizing delays and using interventions.

For example, for a baby who is hasn’t learned to sit unsupported yet, an OT will provide interventions to strengthen the core. The ability to sit unsupported promotes play and learning opportunities. For a school-aged child who uses a palmar grasp instead of mature tripod grasp when holding their pencil, an OT could enhance development of this grasp by providing a smaller sized pencil or unique pencil grip that naturally puts a child into a mature tripod position.

Developmental milestones are all-encompassing for development including primitive reflexes, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, feeding/eating, social-emotional, communication, play behaviors, ADLs, and cognition. The ability to recognize/evaluate developmental delays is imperative when working with the pediatric population so that an OT can provide interventions to augment development.

For more information about developmental milestones check out this resource here!

Occupational Therapy Month: Client-Centered

Occupational Therapy Month: Client-Centered

It’s day 3 of the ABCs of OT challenge! “C” stands for client-centered!

It is my duty as an aspiring occupational therapist to make evaluations, plans, and interventions based around what my clients want to do and need to do. That is called client-centered practice. While focusing on the client, OTs recognize that each individual has their own unique set of roles in life. Parent. Sibling. Friend. Student. Volunteer. Athlete. Employee. Care-taker. Grandparent. Dog mom. Cat mom. The list goes on! Client-centered interventions led by an occupational therapist help individuals engage fully in the roles that are meaningful to them.

Consider an individual who just had an upper extremity amputation. This individual is a mom to a toddler, a wife to a loving husband, and a volunteer at her church. Because of the recent amputation, occupational therapists can teach her how to hold her toddler and how to change his/her diaper using just one hand. Adaptive dressing techniques can be taught so that she can dress independently prior to heading out the door for her volunteer shift at her church. An occupational therapist can provide her with an adapted cutting board so that she can still independently cook up a date-night dinner for her husband.  If all of these occupations and roles are important to her, it becomes the occupational therapist’s responsibility to teach her how to do these things successfully.

OT practice is completely client-centered. We focus on what’s meaningful for you. We give you the tools, strategies, and education so that you can live life to its fullest capacity.

I leave you today with a picture of me with my parents and boyfriend out mountain biking on a beautiful spring day last year. Some of my roles include: daughter, sister, girlfriend, grandchild, graduate student, pet owner, friend, runner, and cyclist. Some of my most meaningful occupations include: spending time with Josh, family, friends, and my dogs; enjoying fresh air while running or biking; cooking healthy meals; attending grad school; and, (the reason why you are reading this), blogging.


Occupational Therapy Month: Balance

Occupational Therapy Month: Balance

Today is Day 2 of Occupational Therapy Month! To celebrate, today we will talk about BALANCE!

OTs emphasize occupational balance in practice regularly. Occupational balance involves balancing occupations in one’s life that an individual wants and needs to engage in.

To put occupational balance into a real-life example, let’s consider the life of a graduate student (like me!). Days are often consumed by long classes, assignments, papers, and group projects. Far more time is spent studying than engaging in self-care and leisure time. In this case, occupational balance does not exist.

To promote occupational balance, OTs can provide tools and strategies to clients who have difficulty engaging in activities that they both want and need to engage in. Tools and strategies can be as simple as teaching individuals how to organize a planner to schedule time for self-care or leisure activities.

OTs strive for occupational balance for themselves as clinicians, in addition to, teaching clients how to achieve balance in their own lives. Simply put, occupational balance can augment quality of life!

So, as you try to balance all the things in life, take a step back to determine how balanced you are. Are you getting done what needs to be done while still being able to participate in the things that bring you joy? Or are you like me in the picture below – still striving to balance school assignments, professional development, and leisure engagement?

Strive for occupational BALANCE. You’ll thank yourself for it!