What is Occupational Therapy?

April is Occupational Therapy Month and honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. I’ve always associated occupational therapy (OT) with physical therapy (PT), but being that they each have their own designated months—I decided to look into it a little bit further.

OTWe’re all familiar with physical therapy and some of us have probably had to go through it for some reason or another. According to Pam Doocy, Mary Greeley Medical Center Rehab and Wellness Supervisor, PT works primarily on strength and range of motion to enhance independence and mobility. There’s a bit more to occupational therapy.

Where PT helps you after an injury, OT helps returns patients back to their prior level of function not only after injuries, but also after illnesses, strokes, total joint replacements and many more.

Pam said that OT works with people of all ages so it takes on different roles depending on the age of the patient and their condition. At Mary Greeley Medical Center when pediatric patients (children under 18) are seen for OT, many times it is for a developmental delay issue, such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida. Children with ADHD, autism and other sensory processing issues are also seen. OT helps all of those children achieve developmental milestones and improves their ability to feed, dress and bathe themselves, perform school tasks and communicate with others.

In adult or geriatric patients, OT teaches adaptive methods to improve independence with eating, dressing, bathing, functional mobility and returning to work or leisure. In this situation one might think of someone who has had a stroke and needs to re-learn how to do some things to achieve the independence they once had.

A Brain's Timing WebMary Greeley Medical Center is currently one of four hospitals in Iowa using a new computer-based therapy called Interactive Metronome (IM) to help some of these patients. It works on the premise that timing in the brain is vital to many brain functions. Conditions such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, along with traumatic brain injury and stroke are believed to disrupt the brain’s timing. IM fine tunes that timing, taking advantage of the brain’s ability to adapt and change over time, helping these patients to improve their conditions. To learn more about IM and read two stories about patients who have benefitted from it, click here.

Currently, the medical center employs five occupational therapists and one occupational therapy assistant and on average, the staff sees 15-20 patients a day. If you or someone you know could benefit from occupational therapy, please visit us here or call 515.239.6770.