What is an Occupational Therapist?
My name is Alyssa and I am a second year Master of Occupational Therapy Student at Stanbridge University.
How I found OT...
I was introduced to the field of occupational therapy (OT) through volunteering at a program that incorporated martial arts and occupational therapy for children with special needs (Karate For All in Tustin, CA). This program, Karate for All, allowed me to work one-on-one with children with special needs such as autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. I learned how to utilize stretching and exercises to facilitate the student’s movement and how these activities could translate to their daily tasks. For example, the children performed planks to strengthen their core and increase their stability, which could ultimately improve their postural control during table-top activities. Through working with the children, I feel in love with the field. I was able to witness the joy of the students as they learned their front kicks, katas, and interact with their peers. And I was able to see the joy of the parents watching their children being engaged and learning new skills.
What do OTs do?
Though the profession has been around since 1917, many people are still unaware what occupational therapy really is or may have never even heard of occupational therapy. In order for our field to gain recognition, advocacy plays a very important role. A question I hear often is “What is Occupational Therapy?” And no, we do not help people find jobs. But we could help the person get dressed, be organized, adapt their environment, and navigate the transportation system to get to their interview 🙂
In a brief summary, occupational therapists help individuals reach their fullest potential through therapeutic engagement in activities (aka occupations) that are meaningful to the individual. This could mean play in a pediatric setting, home adaptations for the aging population, adapting daily activities for a stroke patient, and community outreach. Occupational therapist can be seen in hospitals, private offices, school, skilled nursing facilities, home health care, and so on. The limits for occupational therapy are endless!
Diversity in OT...
Currently, Asians are the second most represented race and ethnicity in the field of Occupational Therapy…however, this number is only 6.57% of reported professionals in the field. A key factor in effective occupational therapy outcomes is through providing culturally competent care. Therefore, having diversity in the field could lead a wider array of perspectives, experiences and could lead to better patient-provider rapport.
As a second-generation Vietnamese-American female in healthcare, I hope to raise awareness for this field that I love. OT is a field that many people may never know if unless they know someone directly in the field. For example, my parents or relatives had little to no knowledge of the career prior to me entering my program. Recently, one of the school organizations I am a part of has recently installed a Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD) chapter. Where we hope to educate our community and peers on topics such as unconscious bias, cultural inclusivity, and raise awareness on the field of OT in underserved communities.
Lastly, I want to thank Angela for letting me be a part of this initiative! I hope from reading this you were able to learn about the wonderful field of OT.