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  • Sarina Shirazee

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) is a mix of art and science, creativity and evidence, fact and feeling, prevention and treatment. We ensure people can participate in their lives fully by considering the physical, cognitive, social, emotional, environmental, spiritual and socioeconomic factors of their past, present and future. We focus on occupations, and by this, I don’t mean jobs or careers, but activities that occupy one’s time.⠀ I’m a paediatric OT, so: ⠀ What occupies babies’ time?⠀ - SLEEPING⠀ - EATING⠀ - PLAYING⠀ What occupies toddlers’ and preschoolers’ time?⠀ - SLEEPING⠀ - EATING⠀ - PLAYING⠀ - SELF-CARE⠀ What occupies school-aged kids’ time?⠀ - SLEEPING⠀ - EATING⠀ - PLAYING⠀ - SELF-CARE⠀ - SCHOOL-BASED LEARNING⠀ How do we help with these?⠀ • Prevention of difficulties (by providing information and education to parents, for example, on biological norms and age-appropriate expectations)⠀ • Health promotion (for example, informing and encouraging parents to practise ways of promoting a child’s physical and mental wellbeing, based on our knowledge of evidence and real life experiences)⠀ • Remediation activities and exercises for kids (for example, working directly with a child on their occupations using top down and bottom up approaches)⠀ • Modifications to occupations (for example, changing the amount of work expected if a child has poor handwriting speed)⠀ • Modifications to the environment (for example, optimising the temperature and lighting if a child has trouble sleeping)⠀ ⠀ ⠀ • Modifications of tools (for example, using a built-up handle to help a child better grasp a spoon) ⠀ ⠀ And this doesn’t cover it all! As you can see, paediatric OTs don’t just work on physical skills and our job involves a lot more than working with kids in X-minute sessions per week. If only we could create change in such short periods!⠀ Outside of our direct work with kids, we spend sessions educating, up-skilling and listening to parents/caregivers. We also spend time learning from parents/caregivers; researching, collating and sharing evidence and information; finding new and creative ways for kids to achieve their goals; evaluating progress and findings; and where possible, trying to prevent children from needing OT altogether. It’s a huge job that’s often misunderstood!


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