Occupational therapy assistants work with patients to improve the quality of their lives in many different ways. But what kinds of conditions do OTAs actually treat? It’s a huge spectrum potentially, depending on where you work and what kinds of patients you work with, and what more people are continuing to find out every day is that there are few if any conditions that cannot be treated or dealt with in some fashion by the field of occupational therapy.
One type of condition that OTAs will help to treat will be permanent physical impairment. This type of condition would include spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and more. Patients may have been born with injuries and conditions such as this, or they may have suffered them at a point in their life, which in many cases is actually harder for the patient as they struggle to adjust to their new life, learn new ways to get daily tasks done and regain independence. Maybe a soldier coming home has had a limb amputated and needs the assistance of occupational therapy to not only live their life but also to find new work.
Other temporary or semi-permanent physical conditions will also be treated, and these can come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps a senior citizen has received a hip or knee surgery replacement, and needs to regain their mobility and strength. Or maybe they’ve suffered a stroke and have lost control over all or part of their body, and need to try to break out of that shell or minimally cope with the changes to their body.
Of course, physical conditions represent only one aspect of occupational therapy. OTAs will also be working with mental disabilities, emotional disabilities and developmental disabilities. These conditions may be found in patients of all ages, from toddlers to the elderly. Elderly patients may be struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and need to keep their mind sharp and learn new strategies to keep themselves safe or simply remember things.
Children may need lots of assistance in terms of navigating social situations with other children, learning how to use computers for the first time, or anything else. All kinds of mental and developmental conditions can be treated to some degree with occupational therapy, and skills such as problem solving, decision making, reasoning and even communication can be worked on.
So, what kinds of conditions will you end up treating with your career? It’s entirely up to where you end up working, and what kinds of patients you might come across in that environment. You might be in a nursing home or in an elementary school, or anywhere in between, and these different settings will naturally lend themselves to patients of different types and with different needs. The above represents only a small fraction of what you might come across and which kinds of conditions can receive treatment from occupational therapy. It’s a huge range, and occupational therapy can provide invaluable assistance to people struggling with injuries and disabilities of all kinds.