Advantages of Occupational Therapy for Disabilities

Advantages of Occupational Therapy for Disabilities

When a person who lives with disabilities has functional limitations in their everyday life, adapting to their limitations is not always straightforward. There may be aspects of their disability or their living situation that make learning new skills or being able to consistently apply them particularly difficult. Professional support is one of the best ways to improve their functional capabilities and ensure they can apply them on an ongoing basis.

There are many advantages of occupational therapy for those living with disabilities, by using techniques, activities and apparatuses to teach and aid basic tasks, improve motor skills, communication skills, coordination and behaviour help to improve confidence and independence while providing a better quality of life for the individual.

Whether you have new limitations due to a disability or have lived with limitations and have never been able to achieve your personal goals, an occupational therapist can have a huge impact on the way you live. Let’s take a look at exactly what occupational therapy can do to improve your quality of life.

What is The Role of an Occupational Therapist?

An occupational therapist, or an OT, is a client-centred health profession that specialises in the therapeutic use of everyday activities to manage ailments such as physical, mental, developmental and emotional limitations. They use a unique set of services with techniques to improve, rehabilitate, or maintain a patient’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks. They work with people living with disabilities, those with certain acute and chronic illnesses, and those who are recovering from injury or surgery.

An OT focuses on treating the whole person. In helping them rehabilitate to pursue a fulfilling lifestyle, they assess the activities that are important to the patient and guide them every step of the way. They also implement the use of apparatuses, physical manoeuvres, and counselling to help them become more independent.

How Does Occupational Therapy Help People With Disabilities?

Occupational therapists work with those living with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities to manage every day functions, establish independence, and improve their quality of life. OTs provide assistance by developing programs within a client’s personal network and environment, prescribing aids and physical alterations to help them find workable solutions and increased access, as well as useful tasks to help them live a normal life.

Participating in occupational therapy as soon as possible can have a profound impact on a person living with a disability. During the first few years of life, our brains are like sponges. If a disability is diagnosed early on during childhood, the techniques and activities taught by Occupational Therapy can increase their quality of life quite considerably.

This also applies to people who have acquired disabilities. By incorporating these techniques early on, monitoring their personal circumstances, and making changes along the way, people living with disabilities will adapt to their newfound condition more readily and with less physical, mental, and emotional trauma.

How Can an Occupational Therapist Help Children with Special Needs?

Occupational therapy is beneficial for people living with disabilities of all ages, but, in particular, it is fundamental for helping children who have severe developmental delays. An OT uses refined techniques, personalised activities, and unique skills to help children with special needs in a number of ways:

  • Learn basic tasks – occupational therapy can help young children become competent at performing daily tasks such as bathing, feeding themselves, dressing, and brushing their teeth.
  • Improve their development – if started early, occupational therapy can improve both mental and physical development, as well as emotional maturity.
  • Improve behaviour – occupational therapy can teach young children to maintain positive behaviours at home, in the classroom, and other frequented environments,
  • Improve coordination – therapy can help improve hand-eye coordination to better equip children to play with friends and perform tasks.
  • Improve fine motor skills – activities performed with an OT can help children practice fine motor skills such as grasping pens and playing with toys which require more precise motor control.
  • Social skills and relationshipsOTs can help determine why a child struggles with social skills and work with them to find solutions that will help with interpersonal and communication skills, as well as improving focus.
  • Improve independence – all the specific therapies provided by OTs can help improve a child’s self confidence, become more independent, and ultimately reduce the need for further therapy.
  • Specialised equipment – an OT can evaluate the need for aids and specialised equipment to help them perform functions in everyday life.

Pursuing evidence-based and well-structured occupational therapy early on in a child’s development can have a huge impact on the rest of their life. The physical and mental skills learned in occupational therapy persist and help them to cope with day-to-day activities, as well as improve their communication and resilience.

What Techniques Do Occupational Therapists Use For Those With Disabilities?

The techniques used by occupational therapists are often administered using specialised equipment. Some methods used by occupational therapists as a part of treatment and training programs include:

Spirometers – sometimes called incentive spirometers, these devices are helpful for patients recovering from chest or rib cage injuries or with respiratory-related disabilities. They measure the air capacity of the lungs while also encouraging proper breathing techniques. If used regularly, a spirometer can help to increase the capacity of a patient’s lungs and prevent mucus build up to make it easier to breathe. By identifying breathing issues and helping their respiratory muscles strengthen, this tool has helped many people overcome or manage respiratory limitations that impair their quality of life.

Medical screenings – routine medical screenings for people help OTs identify issues and monitor the patient’s progress through the program over time. The objective data that is collected in medical screenings means an OT can benchmark and track a patient’s performance using evidence-based practises.

Vision screeners – these tools are used by OTs during medical screenings to check for a variety of eye-related problems such as macular degeneration or any structural damage. Staying on top of any eye-related issues ensures they don’t develop or worsen unnoticed.

AMPS test – this test measures the processing and motor skills of a patient and is essential in determining where a patient’s baseline is in order to set goals and monitor progress throughout their therapy.

Physical activity – this is helpful for teaching patients techniques to manage their physical and mental limitations. Prescribed physical activity helps push patients out of their comfort zones, strive to perform better, and maintain a routine of active participation in their recovery.

Home visits – in-home visits enable an OT to evaluate a person in their home environment and implement practical adjustments to the way they live and function in this space. In-home modifications are one of the most noticeable areas of practise for an OT because this is where their clients frequently spend a majority of their time.

Modifications – physical modifications in a patient’s home are tangible methods to improve their quality of life. OTs can arrange and organise modifications such as lever door handles, automated doors, grab rails, and stair lifts, as well as advising on optimal layout and design.

Patient-centred care – an OT works to tailor their approach and implement techniques that suit the patient based on their unique goals and objectives. Making the most of their therapy toolkit enables patients to transition from therapeutic exercises into real life circumstances.