What is Occupation Therapy?
The role of Occupational Therapy staff at Hope Therapy Center is to work with individuals of all ages to aid in improving skills required to perform daily tasks at home, work, school, or in play. Maximizing the client’s level of independence is the goal. This could involve addressing self-care techniques, feeding, sensory-integration, handwriting skills, neuromuscular rehabilitation, fine-motor coordination, functional transfer training, positioning, skilled range of motion, adaptive equipment needs, splint fabrication and use, visual-perceptual skills, cognitive retraining, attention/behavioral training, or even leisure performance. The focus is on function! Based on results of the initial evaluation, short-term and long-term goals are set to begin working on maximizing independence in the adult or child through the use of purposeful and meaningful activities.
Individuals typically seek occupational therapy intervention when they are unable to carry out tasks that are important to them in their day-to-day lives. These activities of daily living (ADLs) can include grooming, dressing, feeding, toileting, bathing, or transferring from surface to surface. People also participate in OT treatment when they are experiencing struggles with IADLs (Instrumental ADLs), which are activities not necessary for fundamental functioning but are important for enabling the individual to live independently within a community. Examples of these IADLS include meal preparation, money management, housework, community mobility, shopping, and safety awareness.
Occupational therapy neuromuscular rehabilitation involves a therapeutic program designed to improve function and reduce limitations in individuals who have experienced disease, trauma, or disorders of the brain and spinal cord. Examples include cerebrovascular accident (CVA), traumatic brain injury (TBI), Guillain-Barre syndrome, spinal cord injury (SCI), Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and multiple sclerosis (MS). The goal of the program is to help the patient return to the highest level of function and independence in daily activities. Intervention may consist of activities to increase mobility, coordination, balance, or cognitive function. Exercises and splinting to manage plasticity and pain may also be included. Retraining in ADLs and recommendations for assistive devices that promote independence may need to be assessed, as well.
Cognitive rehabilitation offers retraining in the ability to think, use judgment, and make decisions. Intervention includes tasks to improve memory, concentration and attention, language and reasoning, perception, learning, planning, sequencing, visual processing, problem solving, social skills, or judgment. The goal is to enhance the individual’s capacity to process and interpret information in order to improve his/her ability to function at home or in the community. Treatment may focus on changing the environment, changing the impaired skills and abilities of the person, or teaching compensatory ways to accomplish activities and tasks. Restorative training focuses on improving a specific cognitive function, whereas compensatory training focuses on adapting to the presence of a cognitive deficit.
Visual treatment focuses on how the eyes affect functional tasks and what can be done to strengthen visual skills or compensate for visual limitations. Treatment includes tasks to encourage bilateral eye coordination (eye teaming), scanning, visual tracking skills, figure ground, and convergence/divergence (such as when copying from the board). Once specific visual deficits have been identified, occupational therapists use a variety of treatment strategies such as visual exercises, paper/pencil exercises, or movement and/or sensory activities in conjunction with eye exercises to help develop better visual skills. Improvement in visual skills can help the individual to gain skills in eye-hand coordination, reading, writing, copying, attention, and ADLs.
Orthopedic conditions are those that involve the bones, joints, and related structures (muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves). Some orthopedic issues that are addressed by occupational therapists include upper extremity fractures, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendon repairs, and rehab following hip/knee surgeries. Typically the occupational therapist will help the client identify important areas of occupation and performance deficits that restrict the client’s participation. Treatment goals generally focus on maximizing function by increasing range of motion and strength while decreasing pain and edema. OT also provides a wide range of rehabilitative services including home exercise program development, the use of soft tissue massage, joint mobilization, and splinting. Patients are educated in adaptive equipment and techniques to facilitate safety and independence at home.
Upper Extrimety & Fine Motor Skills
Occupational therapists are trained to identify and treat limitations associated with upper extremity function, which is important for performing most daily activities. Although fine motor skills are typically associated with the use of the hands, development in other parts of the body also affect the ability of the hands to work with good coordination and accuracy. Shoulder strength and stability, trunk control, and even visual/perceptual skills can affect fine motor function. Problems often associated with fine motor skills may include handwriting limitations, hand fatigue with use, manipulating buttons or knobs, coordinating eye-hand movements, difficulty opening packages and containers, and grasping/releasing of objects. Therapists can use a variety of treatment strategies to address the underlying problems associated with fine motor delays. Some of these problems may include coordination of hands, dexterity of the fingers, muscle grading, object manipulation, finger isolation, hand/finger strength, and using both hands simultaneously.