Friday, 6 November 2015

What is an occupational therapist?

This week is Occupational Therapy Week. We caught up with Sue Richardson, Paediatric Occupational Therapy Pathway Lead and Professional Lead, to find out more.

What is an occupational therapist?

Occupational therapy is about supporting individuals whose health, disability or impairment stops them from doing the activities that they need to do and that matter to them.

We help people to develop skills and maintain, regain or improve their independence by using different techniques, changing their environment and using specialist equipment.

Occupational therapists work with children and adults and can look at all aspects of daily life, from the home to the school or workplace.

What do you do?

As a Children’s Occupational Therapist I work mostly with children and young adults in the sixth form at a special school for children with severe and complex physical and learning disabilities.

As well as my clinical work, I am also Professional Lead and Pathway Lead.

This means that I am responsible for making sure the occupational therapy voice is heard when important decisions are being made and influence changes to improve the service that we provide. I also have to make sure that our service meets the needs of the children that we see.

I am responsible for a team of occupational therapists, and the delivery of our service across three special schools, working with health, education and social care colleagues in both children’s and adult services.

How do you help people?

As an occupational therapist, it is my job to:

carry out assessments with the children and young adults on all aspects of daily living
create a treatment plan
provide individual, group or classroom based support
give advice and recommendations

An example of the type of support I give is the use of hand splints. This improves wrist posture and use of the young person’s hands to help them grasp and hold everyday objects. This helps with cutlery, pencils, computers or self- propelling their wheelchair. I will monitor the young person, and advise school staff and parents on using the hand splints.

Another part of my role is assessing young people for specialist equipment and establishing its use in school.

What is a typical day like?

A typical day at the special schools starts by liaising with my health and education colleagues. I answer emails and any queries that are waiting for me, as well as managing referrals and supporting staff.

Once the children and young adults have arrived in school, I start my work with them. I might be leading a practical session around personal hygiene or having a meeting to help a young person move in to adult services.

At the end of the day, I’m often involved in training school staff to use specialist equipment or giving advice and support to parents and carers.

What’s the best part of your job?

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is to know that I have made a difference, however small, to the quality of life of a child or young adult and their family. It might be by providing equipment so that they can use the toilet more easily; or providing practical solutions to help improve a young person’s involvement in their own personal care. The aim is to improve a child or young adult’s independence as much as possible.

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