With every new presentation we hold in Second Life we learn a little more about the virtual community and a lot more about ourselves as future occupational therapists. Our most recent discussion, “What is OT?” was held at the Sojourner Auditorium in Virtual Ability. The discussion was an exciting one for us; we continually learn throughout our courses about the importance of advocacy for our future profession, meaning we need to act as educators and proponents for OT and all that it entails. Widespread understanding of our skill set is important because only through increased awareness will we be able assist all potential clients and communities that may benefit from our services. Professionals and clients alike need to comprehend the impact we could possibly have on various situations so that the necessary requests and referrals can be made to begin therapy. Without an accurate understanding of our scope of skills, accommodations and interventions may be withheld, thereby withholding progress from people. Therefore, we were especially motivated for this presentation because it gave us a way to get the word out about OT and act as advocates for the profession to which we have devoted our lives!
The prior knowledge we gained through our courses at Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson School of Health Professions this year definitely shaped the structure and content of our discussion. We began by asking our audience what OT means to them to try to gain an idea of the experiences people have had with OT. As we anticipated, there was some confusion about what OT encompasses, though some attendees did report prior OT interactions. We used this opportunity to outline occupational therapy, including the populations served, the environments addressed, and the interventions used.
According to The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), occupational therapy “helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).” Our audience was extremely forthcoming in their responses and shared many activities that they do every day that hold meaning for them beyond just the activity itself. Responses reflected a desire for mastery and independence in daily functioning; for instance, putting on a woman’s undergarment meant much more to one attendee than just getting dressed; it meant she could take care of herself. OTs play a key role in helping people to attain goals such as this one.
We also discussed why OTs use meaningful occupations in therapy specific to each client. The audience members recognized that OT works this way in order to utilize people’s own intrinsic motivation to progress. One attendee shared an experience her mother had in a session that was not meaningful or stimulating for her because it did not include activities that were personally meaningful for her, so her motivation to progress was absent. Though we never like to learn about negative experiences, stories such as this one help us OT students realize the importance of staying client-centered in therapy. We are excited that our graduate experience is preparing us to work with our clients in this way.
Our discussion then progressed to cover some of the specifics of OT, including the environments in which we work (schools, clinics, hospitals, industries, senior centers, and many more), the populations we work with (across the lifespan and all diagnoses), and the practices we use and believe in. One of the practices that sparked a lot of conversation was Universal Design. Universal Design has 7 principles: equitable use, flexibility, simple and intuitive nature, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and adequate size/space. These principles are meant to guide the construction of spaces so that everyone can participate and engage equally within the space, regardless of size, shape, ability, and needs. Our audience thought of many ways this idea could be applied, and we hope to see more UD in the future since all people have the right to a comfortable, safe environment that meets all needs.
This discussion was one of our favorites because OT is our passion. We were fortunate to have such an interactive audience, filled with participants of many backgrounds with a wide range of experiences and knowledge about OT. We hope we shed light on our profession, its goals, and its services. We plan to continue to act as advocates for OT and for our clients throughout the future.
Note: You can see our slideshare presentation here