Saturday, November 25, 2017

What's OT?

Let's set the record straight! 

Occupational therapy is a career in the healthcare profession. Occupational therapists can work with people of all ages and abilities: from children to older adults with physical or cognitive deficits. Our goal is to get the individual as independent and successful as possible with the things that are meaningful to them.

What's an occupation?

Basically, an 'occupation' is anything meaningful that occupies a person's time. For a child with autism or physical disability, their occupations might include being able to color in a picture, write their name, cut with scissors, type on the keyboard, tie their shoes, or play! For an older adult who suffered a stroke, their important occupations might include being able to feed themselves, bathe themselves, or dress themselves more independently.

Who receives occupational therapy?

It varies setting to setting, so I'll mostly speak from a school-based pediatric perspective. But basically, the person is referred for an OT evaluation by either a doctor, teacher, or case manager. During evals, the OT looks at certain skills, including the person's upper body strength, endurance, motor coordination, sensory processing, and most importantly, their function to perform their daily occupations. Are they able to hold a pencil? Write their name? Cut and maneuver scissors? Zip together a zipper? Attend to tasks in the classroom? Copy a paragraph from the board? OT's try to uncover what the limitations are and what the real issue is. Is it a fine motor limitation,  visual perceptual issue, or sensory processing deficit? There are formal OT evaluations with a scoring criteria, and basically, if they score within a specific low range or if they have obvious functional limitations, then they can qualify for OT services. Based off their skills and limitations during the evaluation, certain goals are set, and the OT's role is to help them achieve those goals.

How do we treat those in OT?

This is the fun part of my job. Occupational therapists have the creative freedom to work towards the person's goals by whatever means necessary. For example, if a child is unable to hold a pencil or write properly because they have weak muscles in their hand, then I can do hand strengthening activities using objects such as tongs, theraputty, and yes- even a turkey baster! OTs might also provide modifications to the environment to help make the person more successful with tasks. I have a lot of fun trying to be creative with my treatment sessions because the kids seem to work harder towards their goals when it doesn't feel like work.

How can you become an OT?

School, school, and then more school! I earned a Master's degree in Occupational Therapy from Seton Hall in 2016. I was part of a dual degree program, which means I did 3 years of undergrad and was guaranteed a spot into the 3 year graduate program if I maintained a certain GPA. I was in a small cohort of about 30 others (shoutouts to my shubies). I would say about half were from the dual degree program like me and the other half applied into the graduate school program (meaning there was only about 15 people accepted into the program). I would HIGHLY recommend trying to get into a dual degree program if you know early enough that you're interested in OT. If you're an outsider applying into an OT program, make sure your resume and your application letter truly reflects why they should choose you in their program! So to officially become an OT, you need: 1) A master's degree in OT, 2) A passing grade on the NBCOT (national board exam), and 3) An OT license through your state. I'll be real... it wasn't an easy process. OT school would sometimes kick my butt and turned this straight A student into being happy with just any passing grade. But as difficult as the road was, it goes by so quickly and is all just a preparation for the craziness to come for the future! If you want more information on the OT graduate school process, comment to let me know!

So if you can't tell... I love being an OT and I'm glad share my experiences and help raise awareness as to what Occupational Therapy is and how it all works!


  1. more about how to get into OT school & the grad school process please! :)

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