Occupational therapists work with people who have a physical impairment, a medical condition, a mental health problem or a learning disability. They help people who have difficulties with practical everyday tasks.
How occupational therapists can help
The aim of occupational therapy is to enable you to live as independently as possible - at home, in employment or in education. Occupational therapists work in health and social care and work closely with health, housing and educational services.
An occupational therapist can help you adapt to changes in your everyday life and to overcome practical problems. They do this by:
- providing advice
- looking at ways an everyday task can be done differently
- recommending alterations or changes to your home
- referring you on to other services that can help - for example, speech and language therapy
- helping you to address work-related issues
Occupational therapists have specialist knowledge and can advise you on disability equipment, housing adaptations and adaptations to the workplace.
You may qualify for a Disabled Facilities Grant from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive towards the cost of adapting your home. An occupational therapist will be involved in the process of assessing your needs.
Occupational therapists and children with disabilities
When necessary, occupational therapists will help your child become more independent by working with other professionals, such as:
- paediatricians (doctors who specialise in children's health and child development)
- speech and language therapists
For some children, it is vital that problems with balance and posture are addressed as early as possible as this can have a major impact on their co-ordination and ability to walk in later life.
Occupational therapists often give children a series of daily activities to do at home, at school or both.
If you have a child with disabilities, you can arrange to have an assessment of their health and social care needs. This should also cover any 'everyday' equipment needed plus advice on accessibility issues that involve your child's education.
Arranging an assessment
Get in touch with the social services department of your local trust. Your local doctor - or your consultant if you have one - can also help you arrange this.
Social services can arrange for an occupational therapist or social worker to make an assessment of your needs or those of your child. Arrangements can be made to visit you at home.
Health and social services' departments have guidelines to decide the level of services people receive and how quickly they get them. If you need vital equipment, adaptations or personal support, arrangements will be made for you to work with an occupational therapist as soon as possible.
If your disability has a moderate or minor effect on your day-to-day life, you may have to wait several weeks.
Occupational therapists work as part of rehabilitation teams helping hospital patients to return home. This includes people whose disability worsens or who are newly disabled because of an accident or medical condition.