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What is Occupational Theory?

Occupational therapy assists people in improving their cognitive, physical, social, and motor skills. The aim is to strengthen daily skills so that people can become more independent and participate in various activities. Occupational therapy programmes for people with autism are frequently focused on play skills, learning strategies, and self-care. Sensory issues can also be managed with OT strategies.

Occupational Therapist 

The occupational therapist will start by assessing the individual's current level of ability. The evaluation considers a number of factors, including how the person:

  • Learns

  • Plays

  • Cares for themselves

  • Interacts with their environment

The evaluation will also identify any barriers that prevent the person from engaging in normal day-to-day activities.

Based on this assessment, the therapist develops goals and strategies that will allow the individual to work on key skills. Common objectives include the following:

  • Independent dressing

  • Eating

  • Grooming

  • Using the bathroom

  • Fine motor skills like writing, colouring, and cutting with scissors.

Occupational therapy sessions are usually half an hour to an hour long. The number of sessions per week is determined by the needs of the individual. Some occupational therapists are specifically trained to address feeding and swallowing difficulties in people with autism. They can assess the specific problem that a person is experiencing and develop treatment plans to address feeding-related issues.

Pediatric occupational therapists play an important role in our communities by enabling patients to participate in meaningful daily activities. When a person's ability to live independently is hampered by illness or injury, they step in. Occupational therapists frequently specialise in working with a specific patient group, such as older adults, individuals with mental illness, or children and youth, with the goal of assisting their patients in leading more independent and active lives.

Pediatric occupational therapist, In a variety of settings, provide assistance to infants, toddlers, children, and youth, as well as their families. As part of its Centennial Vision, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has identified children and youth as one of six key focus areas for occupational therapy practice in the twenty-first century.

Who Provides Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy (OT) services are provided by a licenced Occupational Therapist (OT). He or she holds a master's degree and has passed a national certification examination (The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, or NBCOT).

OTs must also obtain a licence in their state. An Occupational Therapy Assistant may provide therapy services in some cases (OTA). A person with an associate's or bachelor's degree who is trained and supervised by a certified occupational therapist. The assistant works directly with the autistic person to practise skills and achieve goals outlined in the clinical treatment plan by the OT.

Occupational Therapy For Autism

Autism is a developmental disability characterised by behavioural traits. The primary characteristics of autism are difficulties with language skills, play, and social interaction. Autism is classified as a spectrum disorder because the abilities of children with autism vary greatly from one child to the next.

Symptoms appear in early childhood, with distinct incompetence and limited, repetitive behaviours observed in the socio-communicative field. Individuals with autism, in addition to these primary characteristics, typically have sensory processing and sensory integration dysfunction, which affect adaptive behaviour and participation in daily activities. Many autistic children are unable to register many sensations in their environment. They are unable to integrate those sensations in order to form a clear perception of space.

Individuals with autism have difficulty fulfilling the roles they are expected to fulfil in their lives due to sensory integration dysfunction, and they may exhibit behaviours that interfere with their participation in daily life

The primary goal of occupational therapy practises is to ensure that individuals with autism participate in communal life by minimising the difficulties they face in daily activities at home, school, or in communal life and maximising their independence. Outside of therapy sessions, the autistic person may practise these strategies and skills at home and in other settings, including school.

Sensory Integration Therapy

Occupational therapy practitioners believe that individuals with autism can increase their community participation by participating in meaningful and productive activities that are part of their daily roles and goals. They also use client-centred and holistic therapeutic interventions in both analysing and evaluating the problems that people with autism face, as well as in their treatment and support system.

Occupational therapy interventions based on standardised assessment tests, questionnaires, and skilled observations provide a significant advantage in dealing with the problems that people with autism and their families face on a daily basis.

Sensory integration therapy is a popular technique in pediatric occupational therapy. According to the findings of a survey of occupational therapists who work with autistic children, 99% of therapists said they were referring to sensory integration therapy.

According to this theory-

  1. Sensory-motor development is important for learning, according to this theory.

  2. Individuals' interactions with their environments influence brain development.

  3. The neurological system is capable of plasticity.

  4. Meaningful sensory-motor activity is a powerful plasticity mediator. 

Sensory integration is the process of organising sensory information in the brain to produce an adaptive response. The goal of sensory integration therapy is to provide children with controlled and meaningful sensory experiences so that they can instantaneously and effectively form responses that require the integration of those sensations.

Dementia Occupational Therapy

Dementia is caused by impaired cognition as a result of brain damage. Alzheimer's disease is responsible for the majority of dementia cases (60 to 80%).

Dementia symptoms include, but are not limited to, reduced short-term memory, declining problem-solving skills, lowered cognitive abilities, language and communication problems, and personality changes. 

The onset of dementia is gradual, and the disease can last several years or more. The person with Alzheimer's disease progresses through several stages that roughly correspond to reverse developmental levels, with those in the final stages completely dependent on others.

Dementia occupational therapy approaches dementia as a condition that affects occupational performance through their academic curricula, expertise in activity analysis. The therapists work with older people in a variety of settings. 

Practitioners can address the functional implications of dementia by working with family members, concerned others, and even those in the early stages of the disease. Occupational therapists assess people with dementia to determine their strengths, weaknesses, and areas of performance that require intervention. 

Although cognitive performance improvement is unlikely, the individual may demonstrate improved function through compensation or adaptation.

Occupational therapy practitioners also help caregivers cope with this difficult, but often rewarding, role.

Occupational therapy interventions for those with dementia include:

  • Health Promotion: It is one of the occupational therapy interventions for people with dementia. Practitioners can enrich their lives by promoting optimal performance in preferred activities by focusing on clients' maintained strengths and promoting the wellness of care providers.

  • Restorative Action: Although cognitive skill remediation is not expected, practitioners can integrate routine exercise into their interventions aimed at improving ADL performance and functional mobility, as well as to help restore range of motion, strength, and endurance.

  • Maintenance: Practitioners can offer support for the habits and routines that are beneficial to the person with dementia and can be maintained in order to prolong independence.

  • Alteration: This is possibly the most commonly used intervention for people with dementia because it ensures safe and welcoming environments through adaptation and compensation, such as verbal cueing, personal assistance, and/or social support.

What to Ask Before Beginning the Occupational Therapy Treatment?

  1. Who will be interacting with my child directly?

  2. How long have you been an occupational therapist?

  3. Where will the services be offered?

  4. How frequently will therapy sessions take place?

  5. What are the program's objectives?

  6. What practical skills will therapy help you develop?

  7. How do you assist people who have sensory issues?

  8. How do you assess progress?

World occupational therapy day is celebrated annually on October 27th. Occupational therapy interventions vary depending on the needs of people with autism, dementia and other behavioural disorders. The overall goal of occupational therapy is to assist individuals with autism in improving their quality of life and enabling them to participate in daily occupations. Sensory integration therapy is frequently used in conjunction with an occupational therapy treatment plan that is holistic and client-centred. This practise area is critical to the field of occupational therapy in autistic children.

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FAQs on Occupational Therapy

1. What are Some Skills or Tasks Used in Occupational Therapy?

Ans. A typical occupational therapy session may include-

  • Routines for self-care, such as getting dressed (fine motor skills and motor planning).

  • Taking notes and copying them (fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination).

  • Using scissors while holding and controlling a pencil (fine motor skills, motor planning).

  • Catching and throwing (gross motor skills like balance and coordination).

  • Putting a Backpack Together (motor planning, organisation skills).

  • In response to sensory input (self-regulation skills).

2. What are the 8 Areas of Occupation?

Ans. In the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework, 2nd ed., the American Occupational Therapy Association (2008) identifies eight occupational areas.

  1. Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

  2. Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

  3. Education

  4. Work

  5. Play

  6. Leisure

  7. Social Participation

  8. Rest and Sleep