By Dr. Yahtil Huaute, OT, DOT
Boundary Community Hospital
April is, among many other things, Occupational Therapy Month. Most people have never heard of occupational therapy, or if they have, they assume it has something to do with employment. Occupational therapy was founded over 100 years ago with the idea that hospital patients deserved better treatment and more meaningful lives. It has grown and developed over the years to something pretty amazing. Occupational therapy focuses on getting you back to your life! These can be activities such as taking care of yourself, gardening, playing cards with friends, or any other activity that is important in your life.
Occupational therapists (aka OT) can work with people from birth to death. An OT can work with children in hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, and homes. They have become notorious for working with children with Autism, so it is no surprise that April is also Autism Awareness Month! They can work with children struggling with development, sensory processing, learning, and so much more. You can often find OTs playing with children and calling it therapy, but children learn through play, so there is no better way to engage them in learning. Occupational therapists are also known for working with sensory processing disorder (SPD), this is when a child’s senses are either over or under responsive to information. SPD happens in approximately 20% of the general population and can be as common as 88% of children with any other diagnosis.
When it comes to the adults, OTs can be seen treating people with shoulder issues, people who have suffered a stroke, had hand surgery, or even for bladder leaks. OT’s can treat adults on an outpatient basis, in hospitals, and in homes. If someone has a hobby or role in life they can no longer do, OTs can help either retrain them to get back to what they love or even teach coping strategies to make the task/hobby easier to do. Adaptations are sometimes the best way to return to what you love, and OTs are amazing at teaching those methods.
Older adults are another group of people that occupational therapy can help. This is seen in hospitals, homes, outpatient clinics, and nursing homes. Whether it is arthritis, lower tolerance to activity, surgery, or illness, many older adults want and need to be able to be self-sufficient as long as possible. It can be depressing to lose the independence we’ve had all our lives, and as much as we love our families and friends, nothing surpasses independence. Overall, maintaining independence is physically and mentally healthier.
Occupational therapists can help you get back to living the life you want to live; doing the activities you want to do. This therapy is based on your needs and desires first and foremost. So when someone says, “I am an occupational therapist!” you can now tell them you know a bit about what they do. Happy Occupational Therapy Month and Autism Awareness Month everyone!
Yahtil Huaute, OT, DOT is the Occupational Therapist at Boundary Community Hospital.