Friday, August 3, 2012

Job Therapy?

Last but not least I spend time observing Occupational Therapy (OT).  I’ve spent hours over several weeks in the Green Therapy Pavilion (CORF) in outpatient therapy observations, but of all the therapies, OT was the most elusive to my understanding. I really had no idea what purpose it serves and felt eager to learn more about it.  Whenever hearing the words “occupational therapy,” I thought of helping workers injured on the job return to work.  Once again, through my OT observations, I realize how little I really know.

My first observation in occupational therapy (OT) at Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC) comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility (CORF) introduces me to Jill Boeglin, a young therapist fresh out of school who started with WFC in June 2011, and Jamie, a young twenty-three year old woman.  Jill Boeglin graduated from University of Southern Indiana (USI) in May 2011.  After she did her 12-week clinical at CORF, Jill “fell in love with it” and jumped at the opportunity of an open therapist position shortly before graduating.  Upon initially meeting Jamie, she appears to have no obvious disabilities.  I later learn how subtle developmental disabilities can be, and how that subtlety works against Jamie almost to the point of reverse discrimination.  My observations with Jamie and Jill will show me that occupational therapy actually prepares one for the job of living.

Merriam-Webster defines “occupation” as “an activity in which one engages” and “the principal business of one’s life.”  Occupations.  Many hear this word and would immediately think “my job.”  From an OT perspective, and per Merriam-Webster’s definition, this therapy considers basic daily functions as “occupations.”  Unable to carry out daily functions for ourselves, we may require help in getting them done. WFC’s mission charges us to empower individuals with developmental disabilities to reach their potentials and dreams.  Being able to groom oneself or feed oneself speak to dreams for greater independence by many who must rely on another person to do these simple tasks you and I take for granted every single day.

Simply, OT prepares an individual for the occupation of living.  Who'd have thought?  Our therapists facilitate outpatients’ participation in the daily activities they want and need to do through everyday life.  OT interventions assist children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, and help people recover from injury so they may regain their basic skills used daily, such as:  brushing our hair, following a recipe, writing our name, making a bed, grabbing our purse, buttoning our shirt to name a few.  OT also supports older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.  Typically, an evaluation assesses a person’s “performance” for “occupations” (life skills activities), the barriers to and challenges around performance, all to determine the person’s goals and develop a treatment plan.  The treatment plan outlines a customized plan of action centering on what’s important to the person as well as what is important for the person.  OT strives to improve one’s ability to perform daily activities and reach his or her desired goals.

Ever break an arm and wear a clunky cast from above the elbow down to the base of your fingertips?  How was it to get dressed?  Work on a computer?  Take a shower?  Having personally been in this situation, it challenges, if not frustrates someone when attempting to do daily tasks. This extreme example exemplifies how challenging it is for someone with a developmental disability who cannot do for him or herself.  Occupational therapy supports individuals to become as independent as possible, and the means in which to do so.

Young Jamie seeks greater independence in all areas of her life.  She comes to CORF’s OT department for help in this goal. How does an occupational therapist make these goals happen? Well, in the several OT observations with Jamie and Jill, it involved bouncing balls, brownies, and a modified version of “Family Feud.”

Who'd have thought?
In the Next Blog Entry: Reverse Discrimination - “ . .  . . others’ have refused to accommodate her needs, which could ironically be considered “reverse discrimination" . . . . . simply because she looks like nothing is wrong with her.”

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