By Stephanie Yamkovenko
Last year’s World Report on Disability found that there are 1 billion people in the world with disabilities. Many individuals with disabilities can’t find jobs—in fact, 71% of Americans with disabilities do not participate in the workforce (compared with 30% of individuals without disabilities).
As the occupational therapy profession celebrates Occupational Therapy (OT) Month this April, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) wants all individuals with disabilities to know that, no matter their disability, everyone should have the opportunity to participate in meaningful activities and occupations. Occupational therapy practitioners work with individuals with a variety of disabilities (physical, developmental, cognitive, etc.) to help them discover ways to participate fully in life.
Young adults with developmental disabilities, such as autism or Down syndrome, can work with an occupational therapy practitioner to transition from high school to a life after graduation—whether that’s finding a job, going to college, or developing strategies to live as independently as possible. Read the Role of Occupational Therapy in Facilitating Employment of Individuals With Developmental Disabilities.
If an individual with a physical disability needs an accommodation in order to find or maintain a job, he or she can work with an occupational therapist who will assist in making modifications to the workplace, help develop strategies to manage fatigue and stress, and work with the employer to make the place of employment more accessible. Read more on Work Rehabilitation.
“Invisible” cognitive deficits from an injury such as head trauma or a disease can make it difficult for individuals to complete their job and daily tasks. Many times these deficits are not noticeable until the individual returns to work. An occupational therapist can address cognitive issues by analyzing the workplace, creating memory books or external aids to help complete specific tasks, and setting up goals to work on cognitive rehabilitation. Read more on returning to work with cognitive impairments.
Occupational therapy uses a holistic approach to develop personal goals and strategies to help individuals with disabilities function and participate to their highest potential. If you or someone you know thinks that a disability will limit participation in the community or the ability to find a meaningful job, talk to an occupational therapist.
Stephanie Yamkovenko is AOTA’s staff writer.
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