Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence in all facets of their lives. It gives people the "skills for the job of living" necessary for independent and satisfying lives. Services typically include:
- Customized treatment programs to improve one's ability to perform daily activities
- Comprehensive home and job site evaluations with adaptation recommendations
- Performance skills assessments and treatment
- Adaptive equipment recommendations and usage training
- Guidance to family members and caregivers
About Occupational Therapy Practitioners
Occupational therapy practitioners are skilled professionals whose education includes the study of human growth and development with specific emphasis on the social, emotional, and physiological effects of illness and injury.
The occupational therapist enters the field with a bachelors, masters, or doctoral degree. The occupational therapy assistant generally earns an associate degree.
Practitioners must complete supervised clinical internships in a variety of health care settings, and pass a national examination. Most states also regulate occupational therapy practice.
Who Benefits From Occupational Therapy?
A wide variety of people can benefit from occupational therapy, including those with:
- work-related injuries including lower back problems or repetitive stress injuries
- limitations following a stroke or heart attack
- arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or other serious chronic conditions
- birth injuries, learning problems, or developmental disabilities
- mental health or behavioral problems including Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress
- problems with substance use or eating disorders
- burns, spinal cord injuries, or amputations
- broken bones or other injuries from falls, sports injuries, or accidents
- vision or cognitive problems that threaten their ability to drive
Case Studies: How Occupational Therapy Works
Every day, children and adults have or develop health conditions that significantly affect their ability to manage their daily lives. With the help of occupational therapy, many of these individuals can achieve or regain a higher level of independence. When skill and strength cannot be developed or improved, occupational therapy offers creative solutions and alternatives for carrying out daily activities.
Art Anderson's family was not surprised when the doctor confirmed that his growing memory problems were caused by Alzheimer's disease. The primary concern was the effect that Art's care was having on his wife, who was dealing with health problems of her own. They found help in a day care program for people with Alzheimer's disease. Here Art enjoys social interactions, meals, and leisure activities designed for people with his condition. Art's wife Martha attends weekly group meetings led by an occupational therapist. Martha learns to help her husband to participate as much as possible in the family's routine and how to manage the many tasks that make up her "job of living."
Helen Richards is a publishing executive, respected for her business skills and admired for her perfect grooming. Three months ago Helen had a stroke. During her recovery she had to relearn many things, but her first goal was to face the world with her hair and make up in place. Helen's occupational therapist understood. Together they found the right combination of tools and techniques so that Helen could handle her personal grooming. They also worked on the other tasks she would need to manage her home and return to work. From make up to management, occupational therapy helped Helen recover the skills she needed.
Tommy weighed just three pounds at birth. Doctors warned his parents to be on the lookout for problems that might affect his development. In the hospital nursery, an occupational therapist helped ensure that Tommy was taking in enough nourishment. As a toddler, Tommy attended a Head Start program where occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants provided activities to aid his physical and mental development. For youngsters like Tommy, the "job of living" requires basic skills such as eating, playing, and interacting successfully with family members and friends.
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