Columbus, Ohio. Continuing on in Attorney David Bressman's series of articles on brain injuries, those who most successfully recover are the ones who use the best mix of treatment providers. One of the most important is the occupational therapist.
Occupational therapists help clients to perform all types of activities, from using a computer to caring for daily needs such as dressing, cooking, and eating. Physical exercises may be used to increase strength and dexterity, while other activities may be chosen to improve visual acuity or the ability to discern patterns. For example, a client with short-term memory loss might be encouraged to make lists to aid recall, and a person with coordination problems might be assigned exercises to improve hand-eye coordination. Occupational therapists also use computer programs to help clients improve decision-making, abstract-reasoning, problem-solving, and perceptual skills, as well as memory, sequencing, and coordination—all of which are important for independent living.
Other treatments can include the use of adaptive equipment, including wheelchairs, eating aids, dressing aids, design or build special equipment needed at home or at work, including computer-aided adaptive equipment. They teach clients how to use the equipment to improve communication and control various situations in their environment
Occupational therapy is used in treating TBI during many phases of recovery and rehabilitation. Such therapy may be involved in providing sensory, motor, and positioning supports during periods of coma. As the patient improves and re-gains skills, occupational therapy eases the process and re-teaches skills ranging from basic self-care, to complex cognitive skills such as memory and problem solving.
Occupational therapy works with individuals no matter their age. In addition to traditional medical settings, occupational therapists and see people recovering from TBI in birth-to-three early intervention programs, in public school settings, as job coaches, and as part of community mental health.
Occupational therapists are highly educated. A master’s degree, or higher, in occupational therapy is the minimum requirement for entry into the field. Coursework in occupational therapy programs include the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences as well as the application of occupational therapy theory and skills. Programs also require the completion of 6 months of supervised fieldwork.
PT. 3: WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST?