Inform, Inspire, Influence: World Occupational Therapy Day

In the United States, we celebrate Occupational Therapy Month in April. But in many countries, occupational therapy (OT) is recognized for its contributions throughout the month of October. In fact, October 27 has been designated as World OT Day. This event is heralded by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists and includes a 24-hour virtual learning exchange for practitioners and students as well as a Global Day of Service. Each year, World OT Day is celebrated with a new theme – this year, it is “Inform, Inspire, Influence.” With this in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight Grafton’s OT efforts.

Did you know that, as of 2014: only 2.4% of occupational therapists and 1.4% of occupational therapy assistants work in the mental health (AOTA, 2015).

The Role of OT at Grafton

Let’s start with the basics – why do we need OT at Grafton? The organization serves a diverse client population in a variety of settings including therapeutic schools and group homes. In addition to receiving special education services, the individuals enrolled in our community-based children services education program also experience behavioral difficulties — influenced by a variety of factors such as task demands, physical limitations, processing difficulties, and environmental changes — which keep them from participating in community schools. With a holistic approach sensitive to person, occupation and environmental fit, OTs can help.

Across all school settings, there is an increased focus on including occupational therapists in the mental health of student populations. At Grafton, by serving on the multidisciplinary team, therapists have a unique opportunity to work closely with the education team, ensuring a coordinated plan to effectively meet the client’s mental health and educational needs.

We also take a broader view of how OT can benefit the individuals we serve. We have gone well beyond the mandates prescribed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to create the role of “Consult and Liaison OT;” a position tasked with ensuring the OT needs of all clients, across the organization, are met. I feel fortunate to currently be filling this role. By collaborating with both residential staff and the whole multidisciplinary team, I have been able to inform the role OT plays, inspire staff and client therapeutic engagement, and influence positive client outcomes.

Cultivating the Next Generation of OTs

In 2016, Grafton updated its OT fieldwork program. This experience is integral to a student’s education and to their ability to become a skilled clinician. Across all three Grafton campuses, fieldwork students from various area colleges and universities participate in level one and two fieldwork experiences.

The Level One Field Work Experience. In a level one experience, students are able to observe their designated OT supervisors during their workdays for an approximately one-week duration. Without fail, students completing this course of study have voiced appreciation for the Grafton’s unique environment and the dedication of all of the staff.

The Level Two Field Work Experience. Level two fieldwork experiences are designed to develop the clinical skills of a student into those of an entry-level practitioner. For 12 weeks, the students learn the tenets of OT evaluation, intervention, and professionalism. Directly supervised by the Consult and Liaison OT, these students are challenged to think creatively, developing programs to serve clients outside of the typical direct service model.

The fieldwork education program at Grafton fills a need for universities and colleges to meet the psychosocial requirements of accrediting bodies as well as providing a unique learning opportunity. Students are challenged not only by the typical school-based deficits of handwriting, attention to task and daily living skills, but also to use a trauma-informed approach to address the complex psychosocial needs of the clients with behavioral difficulties. One student noted that his Grafton placement challenged him to think outside the box in order to develop indirect service models that will serve the entire school community.

On this World OT Day, I am very proud to be employing my skills at Grafton. I believe we truly are informing, inspiring and influencing the future of the profession as well as the clients and stakeholders we serve.

Read more about Gretchen Ward here.