Disability: A Complete Guide to Understanding Occupational Therapy

When your health is in optimum condition, you’re able to go about your day-to-day activities with so much ease. Because it’s second nature to you, it’s easy to neglect how lucky you are to be able to actually carry on doing the essentials. There are children and adults who are disabled and who may not be able to perform such basic tasks. These are those born with complications and disorders or those who have suffered an accident or a stroke.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy

For the latter group of individuals, they need to undergo occupational therapy, starting first with an occupational therapy assessment. This is the form of therapy that can help them re-learn all the activities they used to do normally in their everyday lives.

When occupational therapy turns out successfully, it can help the patients move forward to a better quality of life. Occupational therapy helps individuals gain back their independence, so they can recover and regain the ability to do the seemingly simple tasks they once had difficulty doing.

In this article, you’ll come across a comprehensive guide to help you understand more about occupational therapy.

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Who Needs Occupational Therapy

First on this guide is a brief enumeration of who might be good candidates for occupational therapy. These include kids, teens, and adults who may have conditions including, but not limited to:

  • Birth injuries or birth defects
  • Multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic conditions
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • Traumatic injuries to the brain or spinal cord
  • Hand injuries
  • Learning problems
  • Cancer
  • Autism
  • Amputation

The Work Environment Of Occupational Therapists

If you’ve been recommended to see an occupational therapist, you’ll be glad to know their work environment range is actually quite wide. Most occupational therapists work in a hospital or have their own centers. Some work in nursing homes or hospices for elderly care. If needed or requested by the patient and their family, there are occupational therapists that offer home therapy sessions.

The rate will usually differ according to the work environment requested by the patient. For instance, generally, occupational therapists doing home service will cost more than if the patient goes to the therapist’s office or hospital clinic.

The Fields Of Specialization In Occupational Therapy

Patients requesting occupational therapy don’t have the same needs. Because each patient has their respective underlying reasons as to why they’ve been recommended to undergo occupational therapy, this means every patient will also have their own respective specific needs relating to their therapy.

There are many fields of specialization in occupational therapy. The final deciding matter will be on the therapist who completes your assessment as to what your need truly is. When the patient’s need is matched with the specific occupational therapy field, the best treatment may be given along with a higher chance of recovery.

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With that said, here are those different fields of specialization in occupational therapy:

  1. Aquatic Therapeutic Exercise

With this kind of occupational therapy, the patient and their respective therapists work together in the water to increase coordination and mobility.

  1. Autism

This is the specific specialization in occupational therapy that deals only with patients who have autism spectrum disorder.

  1. Diabetes

An occupational therapist specializing in diabetes helps diabetic patients with disease management. That way, patients are then better able to understand and manage their disease so an overall better quality of life is achieved.

  1. Feeding, Eating, And Swallowing

There are patients who’ll need assistance in feeding, eating, and swallowing. These can either be kids with defects and injuries from birth, or those who are, unfortunately, still recovering from a disease or an accident.

  1. Hand Therapy

The hands may be a small part of the body but they are one of the most important. Just imagine how life would be if you couldn’t move your hands well. An occupational therapist specializing in hand therapy helps patients who have difficulties with their hands and upper extremities due to trauma, defects, or injuries.

  1. Low Vision

Occupational therapists can also work with patients suffering from visual impairment in children and adults, vision processing deficits, and other eye diseases.

  1. Neuro-Developmental Treatment

Especially prescribed for younger children, the need for neuro-developmental treatment is sometimes present. This is referred to as the ‘Bobath method’ where the focus is on the rehabilitation of individuals suffering from neurological pathophysiology (e.g., malfunction of an organ).

  1. Seating And Mobility Specialist

All thanks to technology, patients who are going through seating and mobility issues now have access to equipment and tools to help them in this challenge. Occupational therapists specializing in seating and mobility problems have expertise in assistive, seating, positioning, and mobility technology.

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What The Occupational Therapist Does

Consulting with an occupational therapist is often the first step to recovery and healing. When you consult with one, your occupational therapist will start to develop the necessary strategies to help you move forward from your impairment and difficulty. An occupational therapist can help you with:

  • Detailing your healing and recovery process and what you should expect from your therapy sessions
  • Outlining ways you can prevent and avoid any further injury that may disrupt your therapy sessions and overall recovery
  • Improving how you go about with your daily activities such as eating, cooking, taking medication, self-care, getting up and out of bed, child care, walking and driving
  • Preparing the long-term hospital care and mobility plan for patients who have to be confined to the hospital on a long-term basis
  • Helping patients transition back to their daily life

During the first session, you have to be prepared to answer a lot of questions the occupational therapist may throw at you. Those questions are important to be addressed so that the best assessment of the patients’ needs and difficulties are analyzed. Be transparent about this, so you’re certain all areas of help will be covered.

Usually, the occupational therapist starts by asking about the patient’s medical history and what they do in their day-to-day life. This is important so they can spot any areas of difficulties, which become good starting points in knowing which problems the occupational therapist will tackle.

The Difference Between Physical And Occupational Therapy

Physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) aren’t to be mistaken as one and the same. Those two fields of therapy are different, each with their respective fields of specialization and function. This section discusses the range of work and differences between both, in a nutshell.

  1. Physical Therapy

This branch of rehabilitation focuses on the following:

  • Physical pain
  • Gross motor skills or the body’s large muscle movements using the arms, legs, feet, and entire body
  • Physical strength
  • Endurance
  1. Occupational Therapy

On the other hand, occupational therapy covers:

  • Sensory-processing problems
  • Fine motor skills or the body’s small muscle movements using the hands, toes, and fingers
  • Visual-perceptual skills
  • Thinking or cognitive skills

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The Overall Effects Of How Occupational Therapy Can Help

Occupational therapy poses positive, tangible results on the patient’s day-to-day activities. When you consider the overall picture, however, it’s not to be overlooked that occupational therapy can help build the patient’s self-esteem and confidence.

It’s always a difficult and unfortunate situation when an individual goes through movement problems with even the simplest tasks. But, it’s not the end of their world. They can always improve and find ways to be better through occupational therapy.

Especially when the patients are children, parents who submit their kids to their much-needed occupational therapy give them that boost to ensure their kids can live their lives as happily and smoothly as possible, even up to adulthood.

Where To Find Occupational Therapists

Like any other profession, you’re sure to come across quite a lot of occupational therapists. But it’s important to know that not all occupational therapists are qualified or certified. With such a major impact occupational therapists have on their patients, it’s important to ensure you’re working with good ones. These are those professional occupational therapists who are licensed to work as such.

Otherwise, you’re only going to be wasting time and money on a therapist who can’t deliver. The likelihood of recovery and success will be slimmer, which means you’ve just deprived the patient of the best possible care they deserve.

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If you’ve been recommended to contact an occupational therapist, these are some of the best ways you can find certified, licensed, and professional ones:

  • Ask your doctor if they can refer any professional specialist to you
  • Ask your friends, family, or colleagues who have gone through occupational therapy
  • Talk to your child’s school nurse or guidance counselor, as they may have their own network of connections
  • Contact nearby hospitals and rehabilitation centers if they have any recommendations.


In highlighting all that you’ve learned in this guide, now it’s easy to get a grip on how life-changing occupational therapy can be. When an individual suffers from sensory, physical, and cognitive problems, their quality of life can be hampered.

Just imagine how your life would be like if one day you woke up and you could no longer do all you’ve been previously doing as a part of your daily routine. With occupational therapy, you can regain your confidence and independence such that overall better quality of life is achieved. Just be sure you don’t settle for anything less than a certified and well-qualified occupational therapist.

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