Occupational Therapy: A Practical Practice

By AASLApril 28, 2017

Jennifer Schwarzschild, M.S., OTR/L, Occupational Therapist

When I was in grad school, I read an article by Preston Lewis (1981) entitled: My 18-year-old Brother Daryl. In this article, an adult sibling depicts the difficulties his brother faces as an 18-year-old man who has seemingly met all of his clinical therapy goals, but is unable to function independently in the community. This article (seen below) began the initial shaping of my emphasis on function and practical skill development as a budding Occupational Therapist (OT).

As OTs we spend about 90% of our day promoting the growth and development of our clients, and 10% of our day clarifying what occupational therapy actually is. The American Occupational Therapy Association explains, “Occupational therapy practitioners work with children, youth, and their families, caregivers, and teachers to promote active participation in activities or occupations that are meaningful to them,” (AOTA, 2014).   Many parents find themselves thinking, “What exactly are occupations?” or “Wait, my child is only 3 years old; he doesn’t have a job.” As a matter of fact, children have the most important “jobs” of all: to learn academics and self care skills, to grow and play, to interact with others and make friends. It is our job as OTs to help children gain the skills needed to succeed in each of these meaningful roles, not only in the clinic, but more importantly at home, at school, and in the community.

By working with children through occupation-based interventions, we OT’s put the fun in function. Through playing, zipping, buttoning, feeding, coloring, writing, cutting, exercising, organizing, cooking, cleaning, and an endless array of further functional activities, OTs help children overcome weaknesses or deficits that are impacting their “job performance.” OT’s use their academic and clinical training in human growth and development through the lifespan in accordance with anatomy/physiology and psychology, to address any aforementioned weakness or deficit as it pertains to the whole child and his or her ability to fulfill his or her daily “jobs.”

For Daryl, in 1981, his therapeutic goals and interventions did not translate into successful community integration; he had not gained the tools he needed to do his “work.” Had Daryl’s treatment plan centered on practical practices, he may be able to identify age appropriate games, do his own laundry, pay his own bills, manage his own household, and maximize his potential. The end-all-be-all goal of therapy is to help our clients live life to the fullest. It is important for us as therapists, in 2016, to be mindful of the “jobs” of our clients, the appropriateness of our treatments, and how the skills we build in the clinic propel our clients to break the “glass ceilings” of their daily occupations.

All About Speech & Language’s skilled Occupational Therapists provide a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s ability to complete self-care, play, academic, and interactive skills at an age-appropriate level.  Learn more about our Occupational Therapy Services here and Seasonal Programs here!

Contact us online here
Phone:  813-616-4004
Email:  info@aaspeech.com

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain & Process (3rd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(Suppl. 1), S1–S48. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.682006

Center for Development and Disability:


Sharing is caring!