Recent Advances in Occupational Therapy

By Ryan Squire

Editors Note: April is National OT Month. You can learn more about Occupational Therapy from the American Occupational Therapists Association (AOTA). Next week we will bring you a story about OT as a career option.

Occupational therapists work with patients on day-to-day activities designed to improve their ability to function independently. “Occupational therapists use a variety of methods to help patients achieve their goals,” says Jeanna Conder, MBA, OTR/L, Director, Clinical Operations, RehabCare. “For example, if a therapist is working with a patient who has had a stroke, the therapist might provide adaptive equipment, such as an elevated commode or a shower seat. For pediatric patients, the therapist might use ‘play’ to improve motor skills, which will ultimately improve function.”

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Conder says that in recent years, more states have begun allowing occupational therapists to use modalities that were not available to them in the past. “In a lot of states, occupational therapists are now able to use modalities such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation,” she says. “These modalities increase comfort, which makes it easier for patients to perform their occupational therapy activities, which allows them to improve faster.”

Recent advancements in technology have given occupational therapists additional tools for working with patients, particularly those with cognitive deficits. “There are a lot of memory and sequencing applications for the iPad and the iPod Touch that are useful for working with patients, especially in the realm of cognitive retraining,” Conder says. “There’s also virtual reality technology, which allows patients to participate in simulations of real-life activities. These tools give occupational therapists more opportunities for addressing cognitive deficiencies.”

Occupational therapy is an integral part of the patient rehab experience. “Occupational therapists work closely with other disciplines to develop a plan of care for each patient that’s targeted toward improving the patient’s ability to function in the everyday world,” says Conder. “The overall goal for occupational therapists, and for all of the disciplines, is to improve the patient’s independence and quality of life.”