The person who needs occupational therapy could be your father or mother facing changes because of aging. It could be your child, frustrated with being unable to do the seemingly simple things the other children at school can do. It could be you or your spouse coping with illness or the results of an accident. It could be anyone who, for whatever reason, can't do the things in life they want or need to do.

Occupational therapy is therapy based on performing the meaningful activities of daily life (self-care skills, education, work, or social interaction), especially to enable or enhance participation in such activities despite impairments or limitations in physical or mental functioning.* Occupational therapy is for individuals of all ages-to improve skills that help them perform daily tasks at home and at school, at work and at play.

Occupational therapy practitioners are skilled professionals. Their education includes the study of human growth and development, with specific emphasis on the social, emotional and physical effects of illness and injury. They help individuals with illnesses, injuries, certain conditions or disabilities get on with their "occupations" of living.

Case Studies: How Occupational Therapy Works

Every day, children and adults have or develop health conditions that significantly affect their ability to manage their daily lives. With the help of occupational therapy, many of these individuals can achieve or regain a higher level of independence. When skill and strength cannot be developed or improved, occupational therapy offers creative solutions and alternatives for carrying out daily activities.

Alzheimer's Disease

Art Anderson's family was not surprised when the doctor confirmed that his growing memory problems were caused by Alzheimer's disease. The primary concern was the effect that Art's care was having on his wife, who was dealing with health problems of her own. They found help in a day care program for people with Alzheimer's disease. Here Art enjoys social interactions, meals, and leisure activities designed for people with his condition. Art's wife Martha attends weekly group meetings led by an occupational therapist. Martha learns to help her husband to participate as much as possible in the family's routine and how to manage the many tasks that make up her "job of living."

Stroke

Helen Richards is a publishing executive, respected for her business skills and admired for her perfect grooming. Three months ago Helen had a stroke. During her recovery she had to relearn many things, but her first goal was to face the world with her hair and make up in place. Helen's occupational therapist understood. Together they found the right combination of tools and techniques so that Helen could handle her personal grooming. They also worked on the other tasks she would need to manage her home and return to work. From make up to management, occupational therapy helped Helen recover the skills she needed.

Developmental Problems

Tommy weighed just three pounds at birth. Doctors warned his parents to be on the lookout for problems that might affect his development. In the hospital nursery, an occupational therapist helped ensure that Tommy was taking in enough nourishment. As a toddler, Tommy attended a Head Start program where occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants provided activities to aid his physical and mental development. For youngsters like Tommy, the "job of living" requires basic skills such as eating, playing, and interacting successfully with family members and friends.