Occupational Therapists (OTs) play a critical role in the recovery process of our clients with disabilities. This January, in conjunction with Occupational Therapy Day, our OTs organised various activities to increase the awareness of their profession among our colleagues.
In SPD, our OTs work with clients between ages 0 to 99. These clients may be born with a medical condition or have acquired a disability later in life. Regardless, the goal is to work with them towards leading a meaningful life, whether at home, at school, or at work. This is achieved through activities that are specific to the clients’ roles and routines, such as self-care, work, school, and social participation. The OTs could start working with them on basic activities of daily living, including feeding and dressing, handwriting or using a wheelchair, and progressing to more complex activities, such as taking the public transport or playing a sport. OTs would also be involved in home assessments, environment modifications, and prescribing assistive technology as needed.
Our OTs work in a team with other professionals who may include physiotherapists, speech therapists, nurses, teachers, psychologists, and many who are supporting behind-the-scenes, so that our clients could get the most comprehensive care.
This year’s Occupational Therapy day theme was “Integrating Care with Impact and Unity”. The lively week-long Occupational Therapy Day activities took place from 13 to 17 January starting from SPD@Jurong and Enabling Village on 13 January and concluded at SPD’s headquarters on 17 January.
“Many people have asked me what an occupational therapist does at work. Some think that we are masseuses while others think we teach people how to exercise. So, rather than explaining in many words, why not put our colleagues in the shoes of our clients to let them experience various sensations and stimulations that they do not usually experience. From there, they would have a better understanding of the clients we serve and know our roles better,” said OT Chris Lai, who is one of the organising members of the Occupational Therapy Day this year.
With this in mind, Chris and a few fellow OTs put together some activities to enable colleagues to stimulate experiences of our clients while performing activities of daily living. Let’s take a look at some of these activities:
To simulate the challenges of a person with weaker hand or poorer sensation after a stroke, colleagues were asked to put on clothes using their non-dominant hand. They were also asked to identify various objects while wearing gloves and being blindfolded, or to insert differently-shaped pegs in a specific order on the pegboard with gloves on. The pegboard is one rehabilitation tool that OTs used to assist clients in improving their fine motor skills.
Others had a try manoeuvring around obstacles in a wheelchair.
Colleagues also experienced the difficulties faced by children with autism when listening to instructions. Through a headphone, they listened to a sound track that simulates the sensory inputs like loud, sharp and repetitive noises that a child with autism would experience, while at the same time having to write down or carry out the verbal instructions given, for e.g., clap your hand, jump on the spot and turn around, amidst the noises. “It indeed felt like a sensory overload. It was rather difficult to concentrate and follow the instructions with the noises in the background,” said senior teacher Tan Siew Huei, who tried the activity.
Our colleagues at various centres showed their enthusiastic support for our OTs through their active participation in the activities. “The activities seem easy, but actually not when you try them. I now have a better understanding of the challenges faced by our clients and the work of our OTs,” said resource development manager, Eric Yeong.
This Occupational Therapy Day, thank you our OTs for your hard work!