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Occupational Therapy - Where does it fit in?

Occupational therapists work with anyone whose ability to function in a work environment has been impaired by physical, emotional or mental illness, disability or injury. They do not replace a vocational rehabilitation counselor, but they may be hired to do parts of the vocational rehabilitation program.

The first way an OT can help in vocational rehabilitation is to evaluate a person’s ability to complete job tasks. For example, after an injury or accident, an OT might report that a person has difficulty walking or standing for long periods but her fine motor skills are above average. Therefore, a job such as a cashier, office work entering data or designing web sites would all be good choices given the person's strengths and limitations.

Occupational therapists can design a program of exercises to help a person be ready to return to work. If you received our Miniwakan newsletters, you have read about some experiences of people after disability due to accidents. One thing these stories had in common was the length of time it took to recover and how weak they felt at first. Occupational therapy is designed to build up strength and endurance to allow individuals to perform work and self-care skills. Not only can OT help rebuild strength to do tasks you used to do, but a therapist can also help you learn to do things in a whole new way. As Willie said in his article in the Miniwakan Tiyospaye, he had to learn to do everything all over again, from getting dressed to driving a car.

Not only can an occupational therapist help with an exercise program, but they can also recommend equipment that will help a person accomplish tasks for work and daily living. Sometimes, this equipment can be extremely simple - for example, wrapping foam around the handles of pans to make it easier for a person with arthritis to grip, increasing light in a room for a person whose vision is failing. Other equipment, such as hand controls for a car, may be very expensive. A good occupational therapist will have knowledge of a wide range of possibilities.

There are a couple of facts about occupational therapists we have found many people don't know. Did you know that:

  • Occupational therapists do not just work with people with developmental disabilities, accidental injury and stroke, they also work with individuals with mental illness and emotional disorders?
  • Occupational therapists can identify and get rid of accident and injury risk factors in the work place. These could include anything from loads too heavy for the individual to carry to poorly designed tool handles to excess noise or other stresses. They make sure that the client not also finds the job, but keeps it by identifying the necessary strategies, accommodation or changes that can be made for success on the job.

For more information on what occupational therapists can do to help, we highly recommend this page from the American Occupational Therapy Association.


Next page, the range of VR services

Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. -- P.O.Box 663, 314 Circle Dr., Fort Totten, ND 58335 Tel: (701) 351-2175 Fax: (800) 905 -2571
Email us at: Info@SpiritLakeConsulting.com