Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Occupational Therapy and Disability Prevention

It never ceases to amaze me how adamant people can be that they know the profession of Occupational Therapy better than someone with a degree in the profession. I recently received a challenge that OT has nothing to do with accident and disability prevention. Though some might think this is the truth, let us take a look at the profession for some insight.

In the 1980's, occupational therapist Carolyn M. Baum spoke about the need for occupational therapists to work in the area of prevention in her Eleanor Clark Slagle Lecture. Who was Eleanor Clark Slagle? She was one of the pioneers of the profession and assisted to found what we know today as the American Occupational Therapy Association or AOTA in 1917. Every year an award is given known as the Eleanor Clark Slagle Award for OT's who excel in the areas of research, education and clinical practice. Those receiving this award then present a lecture known as the Eleanor Clark Slagle Lecture at the AOTA's annual convention. With this snippet of background, we get some idea as to how important the area of prevention was already in the 1980's. I need to do some research to determine in what way it might have been important prior to the 1980's but certainly this lecture was an important one in the history of OT.

I was going to list articles written on the topic, but this will require some research. Perhaps I will do so in a later post. For now, here are some areas of health care that occupational therapists are involved in which assist to prevent injury, to prevent complications, to prevent deterioration and more

- Ergonomics and 
- Fall prevention for the elderly
- Safety in the home, especially after an injury or surgery
- Safety in the workplace
- Prevention of construction falls
- Accident and disability prevention in the workplace. This can include working with safety committees or education of employees
- Industrial Occupational Preventative Practice
- Lifestyle redesign including education on healthy lifestyle habits such as principles of   back protection.
- Education in parenting skills to advance the development of one's child is also a part of prevention and promotion of health.

These are just a few areas that come to mind and all are areas that the OT is involved in. 

I took the question as to whether OT has anything to do with disability prevention to an online group and received about 8 replies so far. I am waiting for permission to share the comments as each one is beautifully expressed and covers a different area of daily living or a different age group.

In short, occupational therapists analyze occupations that clients are involved in and modify where necessary or provide education and training on different techniques, different location or method to carry out the task, adaptations of the environment and more all aimed to assist the client to function as optimally as possible. This includes ensuring the person will be safe in what s/he is doing, after all, if one spends hours assisting a person to carry out an activity only to have the person injure themselves, is that optimal functioning?

Related to road traffic accidents, where one's habits or level of functioning can result in an accident for the person concerned or another, yes, OT's are involved too. This can include evaluation and training in safe driving e.g. for the elderly or after an injury. It can involve training a disabled person in how to use an adapted vehicle. It can include improving concentration, problem solving, perception and more in order to increase safety. It can be interwoven into parenting workshops to ensure that parents teach their children road safety and awareness.  In today's time, it can also include looking at habits with use of technology such as mobile phones, ipads etc to make sure that drivers and pedestrians refrain from texting or talking on the phone when involved in crossing the street or driving. This comes back to healthy habits, developing self-discipline and more. It could require assisting a person to increase self-esteem or self-confidence where courage is required to admit one might be late rather than risk an accident by running in front of on-coming traffic. 

As you see, there are many variables involved. Yes an aspect of accident prevention related to road traffic accidents is the area of the traffic department, however, there are times that OT's develop a working relationship with the traffic department to increase appropriate education. OT's might also work with disabled persons to help to educate on accident and disability prevention.

There is quite a bit more that I can add to this topic. I hope this post gives a little food for thought. Have you worked with an OT? Are you an OT? Are you aware of another area of intervention related to prevention that an OT is involved in?

This post is prepared for you by 
Occupational Therapist, Healing Facilitator
Certified Infant Massage Instructor

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