The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) answers the question this way:
“In its simplest terms, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).”(www.aota.org)
So, you’re probably still wondering “What is occupational therapy?” To understand OT, as it is frequently referred, is to understand a broader sense of the word occupation and an understanding beyond the realm of one’s career or job description. Occupation can be thought of as the daily activities that occupy a person’s time throughout the day. Occupations are not “busy work”, but the activities that bring meaning to a person’s life. Occupations generally fit within three categories: work, leisure, and self-care. Many of our occupations are directed by the roles (parent, sibling, caregiver, worker, student, etc.) that we play throughout our day and our lives. An occupationally healthy person has a balance in his or her occupations and is able to perform the duties involved with his or her roles successfully and satisfactorily.
An occupational therapist would become concerned when a person is unable to perform the occupations of their daily life or is unable to effectively perform in their roles. Multiple types of impairments may hinder a person’s ability to engage in occupations including physical, cognitive, social, spiritual, and other impairments. This is why OTs work in a variety of settings and implement a variety of methods to restore impairments, provide adaptive methods, or develop skills so a person may perform occupations to the best of one’s ability.
What is special about OT and utilizing sensory integration frame of reference?
The theory of sensory integration was formed, developed, and researched by A. Jean Ayers, PhD, developmental psychologist and occupational therapist, beginning in the early 1960s and continued its development until her death in 1989. The theory has continued to evolve through research and clinical findings. Many of these findings have supported, validated, and enhanced the original concepts that formed the theory of sensory integration. Dr. Ayers ingeniously married the science of neurology, movement, learning, and behavior with the functional approach of occupational therapy for an effective form of treatment for those struggling with sensory integration.
Occupational therapists that are able to utilize the theory of sensory integration have an in depth understanding of how to evaluate and how to effectively treat persons who are struggling in their occupations. Because performing daily occupations require sensory integration, occupational therapy that utilizes this insight is often powerful and successful.
For more information about occupational therapy and sensory integration across the lifespan, visit American Occupational Therapy Association.