CEO Blog: What is an occupational therapist? Guest bloggers answer questions and bust myths about their work

Pictured here is  Jennifer Crouchman, occupational therapist and guest blogger, with Gabriel, a Holland Bloorview client.

Guest bloggers: Christie Welch, Carling Robertson, Jennifer Crouchman and Susan Fisher

For part of our celebration for occupational therapy (OT) month this October, Julia is sharing the blogosphere to shine a spotlight on OT and the many roles occupational therapists play at Holland Bloorview.

What are occupational therapists?

Occupational therapists are regulated health professionals. They help people do the things that are important to them. For children and parents, these are everyday things that children engage in at home and at school, like writing, eating, learning to walk, playing with friends, or going to the washroom.

Occupational therapists look for the fit between a person’s skills and the demands of their environments. They work with children to increase skills and to reduce barriers in the environment, so that children can participate at maximum levels. An OT may recommend equipment to help with positioning and mobility, exercises to help strengthen muscles, games or toys to help with social skills and visual motor co-ordination, or calming activities to help with sensory regulation. OTs also support teens and young adults to get involved with early work experience opportunities such as volunteering, high school co-ops and paid summer jobs.

Occupational therapists at Holland Bloorview

At Holland Bloorview, occupational therapists are just about everywhere! You can find OTs at all of our locations, doing a variety of things from direct therapy, prescribing equipment, running education groups, doing research and acting in leadership roles. We also have OTs working out in the community – in kids’ and youths’ homes, schools and childcare centres.

Who are occupational therapist assistants?

Occupational therapist assistants (OTA) work under the supervision of OT to enhance treatment goals. This may be through 1:1 therapy or group therapy with or without the presence of OTs.

Occupational therapy myth busting

Because occupational therapists have such a wide scope of practice and because they work in so many different settings, it can be hard for people to understand what occupational therapy is.  Occupational therapists often have to bust myths about occupational therapy.

Myth #1: Occupational therapy is all about helping people find jobs

Actually, occupational therapists help people reach goals in any area of their lives. This sometimes includes work-related goals. Also, OTs believe that various forms of work are health promoting and so, might use work-based activities as therapy!

Myth #2: Occupational therapists work just in pediatrics

Occupational therapists work with people across the lifespan.

Myth #3: Occupational therapy is all about minimizing disability

Occupational therapists work with people to reach a variety of goals within and outside the context of disability (some OTs work exclusively in ergonomic design for instance). Just because someone has a disability does not mean they need OT, and when people do have a disability, they can work with an OT to achieve goals in many ways – sometimes by changing the environment, daily schedules or accessing new technology or equipment.

Myth #4: Occupational therapists work just on “arms and hands”

Occupational therapists are holistic in their views of people. They consider physical, mental and spiritual well-being and are trained to support people in a wide variety of ways.

About the guest bloggers

Christie Welch has been an OT at Holland Bloorview since 2003. She recently took on the role as lead for the early learning and development programs. Christie’s favourite part of being an OT is the versatility it affords her in terms of practice contexts, intervention approaches and job roles. Christie hopes to become more involved in leadership and research. She is set to complete a PhD in Rehabilitation Science in December 2018.

Carling Robertson has been an OTA within the youth employment programs at Holland Bloorview since 2015 and part of the brain injury rehabilitation team (BIRT) inpatient team since 2016. Carling’s favourite part of being an OTA is how every day is different which allows her to constantly learn new things while building therapeutic relationships with many different clients.

Jennifer Crouchman has been an OT in various roles at Holland Bloorview since 2012. She has held positions on the transitions, recreation and life skills and specialized orthopedic and developmental rehab (SODR) inpatient teams; and is currently part of the writing aids service. Jennifer’s favourite part of being an OT is the opportunities to be creative in developing individualized solutions and strategies with clients and families to increase their participation in everyday activities.

Susan Fisher has been an OTA at Holland Bloorview since 1997. She has held positions in integration education therapy (IET), specialized orthopedic and developmental rehab (SODR) inpatient teams, brain injury rehabilitation and currently inpatient seating services. She is also using her skills to develop the new position within Holland Bloorview of preventative maintenance technologist. Susan’s favourite part of being an OTA is the opportunity to work with many different populations across the hospital.

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