Occupational Therapy: Skills for the Job of Living
By Dawn Hearne, MHA OTR, Director of Occupational Therapy.
I have thought about the phrase “skills for the job of living” over the past few weeks.
If you had told me in February 2020, our team of OTs and I would be providing OT services via telehealth – via a screen projected into your home by April 2020, I would have fallen off my chair in disbelief! ………………….But here we are, doing just that!
It seems the skills we need as OTs for the job of living have changed a lot in the last month.
- We’ve increased our technology skills and knowledge- tremendously!
- We are providing Occupational Therapy services outside the familiar school environment.
- We are working via a laptop or iPad from the sofa, kitchen counter, or play room WHILE living with our families, animals, or alone.
- We are coaching and collaborating with parents, who are implementing “hands on” assistance.
- We are juggling and balancing all our roles and responsibilities in this new situation.
It is a lot and the learning curve has been steep. However, from an OT’s perspective, our approach to assessing students’ current roles, skills, and occupations has not changed.
- A student’s “occupation” is still to learn, play, process sensory information, and develop and carry out self-care, executive functioning, and activities of daily living skills (ADL’s).
- An OT’s role is still to facilitate and enable students to reach their optimal potential by developing skills, modifying the task, adapting to changes or adapting the environment.
- OT’s continue to be highly skilled in activity analysis to identify and implement interventions and strategies to support students’ progress.
OT’s continue to work with students and their families (but now in the home) to support access to education via:
- Daily Routines
- Self-care/Healthy living skills
- Activities of Daily Living
- Adapting to this new way of doing things
- Fine and visual motor skills needed to participate in activities
- Bilateral skills and motor planning to carry out specific tasks, e.g. opening book bag
- Sensorimotor and sensory processing skills to support and self-regulate for learning
- Access and attention to learning/education environment in the home
- Executive functioning, e.g. problem solving, self-advocacy
- Assistive Technology adaptations to support students’ access to therapies and education via telehealth
- Modifications and adaptations to the task and/or the environment
Pictured above: PGCS Occupational therapist Jessica Simao working with a student
We are all adapting to new roles, routines, and schedules. Our role as OT’s has not really changed. The environments in which we find ourselves have changed and we have gained new skills to adapt.
OTs are adapting, learning new skills, and continuing to provide OT to support our students for their education and skills for the job of living.