april is occupational therapy month

The journey to independence after an injury, illness or other debilitating event presents several challenges to everyday life. But lucky for us, we have occupational therapists to help overcome those challenges! Occupational therapists (OTs) make it their mission help patients regain their ability to perform everyday life tasks after injury or illness. OTs truly make the world a better place!

This month is Occupational Therapy Month. Every year in April, occupational therapists from around the country take time to inform others of the importance of occupational therapy, and educate people on what occupational therapists do. Occupational therapists are responsible for helping people gain (or regain) the ability to complete everyday tasks or “occupations.” Occupational therapists have to customize their methods for each patient they work with, due to the fact that people are at different stages in their physical limitations. Their job is labor intensive, but their work is crucial for helping physically disabled or rehabilitating individuals gain their independence.

Different groups around the nation are taking this month to educate people on what occupational therapy really is. The students at James Madison University hosted a wonderful event for Occupational Therapy Month that was open to the entire student body. Here students were encouraged to write down the occupations most important to them, and to not take for granted the daily tasks they are able to perform. The students also set up a sports area to attract other students, with the hope of educating them on occupational therapy. One of the attendees was Mark Andrews, the founder of the nonprofit charitable organization ‘Therapeutic Adventures Inc.’ “With occupational therapy, you’re working with individuals not only in the workplace, but as they integrate back into society, and sports and recreation are a big part of that,” Andrews said. “So we’re out here to support what the students are trying to do and also to get the word out about what we’re doing.”

Andrews supplied the event with a very popular attraction-- a three-wheeled bike that’s operated by a hand crank instead of pedals. The bike is a perfect demonstration of a device that can be used in occupational therapy to help those with disabilities get back to doing the activities they love.

This year is more noteworthy than normal, as the occupational therapy field is celebrating its 100th anniversary! The profession started during WWI, when OTs first helped soldiers back into shape after they returned home from war with injuries. Since then, OTs have continued to help patients with everything from regaining strength to relearning how to engage in daily activities such as cooking and showering. The world wouldn’t be the same today without the hard work and dedication of occupational therapists!

After an injury or surgery, occupational therapists are usually the first line of support. OTs look at patients’ lifestyles, and the activities they do throughout the day to create customized solutions for them. Their main goal is empowering patients to accomplish the goals in their lives. “The role of an occupational therapist is to restore as much function as possible to a person who’s been incapacitated, and help that individual return as much as possible to doing the things that he or she loves to do,” said Ginny Holcomb, occupational therapist and co-owner of Teton Therapy.

The world needs occupational therapists. They are the people who dedicate themselves to helping others regain their lives. This month marks the profession’s centennial anniversary, and the field is only continuing to grow. No matter how big or small the issue may be, occupational therapy can make a lasting difference on a patient’s quality of life.