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Understanding Occupational Therapy and Its Benefits

The word “occupation” means more than a person’s job or career – it refers to all activities that individuals occupy for leisure and work, both meaningful and mundane.

Occupational science is the study of human participation and looks at the ways in which participation can be measured in order to develop effective methods of intervention. It also examines how the impact of participation can affect an individual’s health and well-being.

Therefore, occupational therapy is a client-centered health profession that focuses on promoting the health and well-being of individuals who struggle to participate in the activities of everyday life.

Keep reading to find out what occupational therapy is and how it can benefit individuals of all ages and walks of life:

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a form of health care that addresses issues with a person’s ability to function day-to-day, such as dressing themselves, going to work, and participating in social activities.

It’s the only profession that helps people of all ages to do the things they need to do by promoting health and preventing injury, illness, or disability.

Common interventions include helping children participate in school, aiding those in recovery from injury, and providing support to the elderly experiencing physical and cognitive changes.

Examples of Occupational Therapy Techniques

Occupational therapy techniques involve using meaningful and purposeful activities relevant to the patient to help them become more functional.

For example, an individual recovering from a stroke may seek occupational therapy to regain independence. This may involve using household tasks such as hanging up laundry to help rebuild upper body strength.

An occupational therapist may use something as simple as playdough to help a child strengthen weak hand muscles.

There are also many tools an occupational therapist can use to aid their patients including assistive technology such as grab bars for balancing and standing, kinesthetic chairs for posture, and weighted products (vests, blankets, etc.) to address anxiety and sleep issues.

Occupational Therapy for Adults

Adults of all ages and abilities can seek occupational therapy to address neurological and physical conditions such as:

  • Obesity
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Concussion
  • Injury Rehabilitation
  • Aging

Occupational therapy can help adults with their mobility and seating, motor skills, cognitive abilities, home management, community living skills, and workplace skills.

Occupational Therapy for Kids

Occupational therapists also work with children to help them gain independence in their daily skills such as playing, printing, and socializing. They can help children acquire specific skills such as tying their shoes, using a fork, and kicking a ball.

This type of therapy can be done with babies, young children, and school-aged kids in a variety of settings such as the home or school. Occupational therapists work in collaboration with family, teachers, and other health professionals.

Occupational therapy can be particularly useful in helping and supporting kids with Autism, ADHD, birth injuries/defects, sensory processing disorder, and traumatic injuries to the brain and spinal cord.

What Do Occupational Therapists Do?

Occupational therapists, or OTs, work with people of all ages with a variety of tools and techniques in a variety of settings.

They may work in a classroom to help a child use a computer, in a hospital with patients who have just suffered a stroke, or working in outpatient programs with clients suffering mental illnesses.

OTs also assess clients in order to identify and purchase appropriate equipment, such as wheelchairs, to ensure clients can safely remain home – whether they have a condition such as multiple sclerosis or if they have suffered injury from a motor vehicle accident.

While OTs often work alongside physiotherapists, their roles are very different. While physiotherapists help patients restore physical function, occupational therapists focus on how that function affects their ability to live their day-to-day lives.

To become a registered occupational therapist, OTs require a Bachelor of Science degree or a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy as well as a minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised fieldwork (either through on-the-job training or a clinical practicum).

Following the completion of their education, occupational therapists must pass a certification exam and become a member of a council that is responsible for the regulation of occupational therapy.

What are the Benefits of Occupational Therapy?

Once upon a time, occupational therapy was predominantly used for people who suffered an injury and sought to return to work.

However, it has evolved into a beneficial treatment for those who wish to regain the ability to do everyday tasks, no matter the cause of their challenges.

Here are some of the benefits occupational therapy can offer:

1. Improves Physical Health

Occupational therapy can help patients increase their strength and endurance while improving their range of motion with the goal being to build upon their current abilities to alleviate the struggle of day-to-day tasks.

2. Decreases Pain

Sometimes the pain we feel in our bodies is not a direct result of an injury or condition. For example, when one muscle is weak, the opposite muscle tightens and causes pain.

Occupational therapy can help patients develop proper body positioning to improve movement and decrease pain.

3. Improves Independence

The primary focus of occupational therapy is to improve the individual’s self-care skills so they can complete personal tasks with as little assistance as possible.

Likewise, occupational therapy can be used to help patients gain meaningful employment by addressing movement restrictions as well as providing instruction on how to perform and modify work tasks.

4. Addresses Cognitive Function Deficits

Occupational therapy involves more than improving a person’s physical state. It can also address functional cognition by helping patients practice skills that require organization, attention, problem-solving, and reasoning.

5. Improves Sleep

Occupational therapy can help with sleep issues by addressing secondary conditions that may be affecting sleep quality as well as establishing sleep hygiene routines, managing fatigue and pain, and helping the patient modify their environment to promote sleep.

Occupational Therapy: Treatment and Prevention

Occupational therapy is not simply a form of healthcare used to treat and manage conditions – it can also be used to prevent complications before they become larger problems.

If you feel you could benefit from occupational therapist, speak to your medical practitioner about speak with a registered occupational therapist.

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How Youth Physio Can Help Your Child

Youth physio, also known as children’s or pediatric physiotherapy, is a specialized area of treatment focused on the unique needs of babies, children, and young adults. Youth

Pediatric Physiotherapists undergo additional training in order to meet the physical, mental, and education needs of children.

These Physiotherapists can assess and treat a wide range of childhood conditions including developmental, neurological, respiratory, and musculoskeletal difficulties. These conditions can result from illness, disability, or injury.

They work closely with parents, doctors, and teachers to gather as much information as possible to help identify areas that need improvement and determine a treatment plan and exercise activities most effective for the child.

Youth physio can involve a wide variety of different activities tailored to the child’s therapy goals. These include:

  • Movement and exercise
  • Respiratory care
  • Manual therapy
  • Splinting and orthotics
  • Hydrotherapy

Pediatric Physiotherapists work with children in a variety of environments including at home, in school, and in daycares. In some cases, children may need to have their physiotherapy carried out in a clinic or hospital.

What Can You Expect From Youth Physiotherapy?

When your child is first referred to youth physio, the Pediatric Physiotherapist will conduct an initial assessment to get to know your child as well as learn of any concerns or goals that you may have.

This is followed by a physical assessment to determine the best treatment plan for your child’s unique needs. At this point, the Physiotherapist may initiate a home exercise program and schedule your child for a follow-up visit to track progress.

The type of intervention will depend on the needs of your child and the Physiotherapist will teach you and your child’s caregivers who to help your child in the home, school, and other community settings.

If your child requires monitoring on a more regular basis, the Physiotherapist can train someone else to carry out the physiotherapy plan and keep in close contact with them throughout the duration of treatment.

Pediatric Physiotherapists will also consult with parents, caregivers, daycare staff, and school staff to address your child’s needs in each environment and provide everyone with a program to follow.

Collaboration and education are important parts of achieving maximum results.

When is Youth Physio Recommended?

If your child suffers a physical injury such as a sprain, pull, or concussion, they should always visit with a Physiotherapist to ensure the injury is completely healed.

Otherwise, there are certain pediatric conditions that can benefit from youth physio:

Autism

Children with autism can often have difficulties when it comes to fine and gross motor skills and sensory development. Youth physio can help a child with autism increase their motor skills, gain independence, and increase their participation in school and at home.

Cerebral Palsy

Depending on the degree of symptoms when it comes to posture and movement, youth physio can help children with cerebral palsy regain some strength, posture, and motor control. This can greatly expand the range of things they are capable of doing.

Down Syndrome

Physical symptoms of Down syndrome include loose ligaments, low muscle tone, and decreased strength. Physiotherapy can ensure that the child’s motor skills are developing and that their movement patterns are efficient and not putting extra strain on their bodies.

Developmental Delays

There are times when disease or injury are not the cause of motor skill development delays – your child may simply be missing their milestones. Physiotherapy can help your child improve their balance, strength, and motor skills.

Neuromuscular Disorders

Neuromuscular disorders, such as muscular dystrophy, can be addressed with physiotherapy. Physiotherapy can help maximize the child’s capability and quality of life during the course of the disease.

Spinal Cord Injury

Depending on the type of spinal cord injury, a child could end up facing paralysis, muscle weakness, breathing issues, and loss of bowel and bladder function. Depending on the severity of the injury, physiotherapy can help the child build muscle strength, increase mobility, and improve balance.

Brain Injury

Children who suffer from a traumatic brain injury or pediatric stroke often forget how to complete normal physical tasks. Physiotherapy can help rehabilitate those with brain injuries by helping them relearn the lost movements and skills.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Youth Physiotherapy?

1. It Ensures Adequate Healing

Although children heal faster than adults, the reduction of pain may create a perception that they are adequately healed before they truly are. This means that may return to sports or activities too early and increase the risk of re-injury.

Having your child see a physiotherapist can ensure that the injury is properly treated and that complete healing is verified before they resume their regular activities.

2. It Can Help Treat More Serious Conditions

Physiotherapy is not simply reserved for those who suffer an injury. It can also have a positive impact on children who live with more serious conditions such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, spina bifida, and other genetic conditions and neurodevelopment disorders (such as autism).

Youth physio can offer effective treatment plans to suit your child’s unique needs and extend the potential of their physical capabilities.

3. It Can Help Them Pay Attention in School

When it comes to childhood restlessness, there may be underlying issues that affect your child’s ability to sit still. The physical inactivity experienced during the school day can lead to discomfort which can, in turn, negatively impact cognitive performance and sleep.

As a treatment, youth physio can help your child return to a state of physical comfort and improve their classroom performance.

4. It Creates a Better Awareness of Their Physical Self

Youth physio can help your child learn about how their bones, muscles, tissues, tendons, and ligaments work together – this will give them the knowledge and skills to better identify when they are injured or sick.

They will also learn how to properly move their bodies when physically active to prevent injury and improve their performance.

Youth Physiotherapy Can Help Your Child

Whether your child is suffering an injury or facing a lifelong struggle with a physical or cognitive disorder, youth physio can help make significant improvements in your child’s life.

Speak with your medical practitioner or contact a registered Pediatric Physiotherapist for more information.

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