October is National Occupational Therapy Month

We are pure potential. The exigencies of life kicks in and a tragedy, an accident or an unexpected occurrence side-swipes us; But we are still pure potential.

Those whose lives have been physically or mentally damaged can still live meaningfully thanks to over two-dozen occupational therapists who find solutions to the occupation of being alive. October is the month we celebrate them.

One of these therapists, Lauren McClintock, says, “We help patients whom doctors refer to us. We are part of the rehabilitation team.”

Arielle Meynen, another one, mentioned that because the hospital facility is small compared to in larger centres, “we experience a much broader spectrum of patients with mental and physical disabilities.”

“’Occupation’ is anything that allows people to be active according to their abilities,” purports McClintock. “When we assess a patient we look at self-care such dressing oneself, showering, their productivity, such as volunteering, and leading meaningful lives.”

All occupational therapists work with health care professionals, such as speech pathologists, physiotherapists, psychologists, psychotherapists, recreational therapists, and the list goes on. With the aid of these people occupational therapists develop, recover, or maintain the daily lives and work skills of patients by re-patterning basic motor functions, or redeveloping reasoning abilities to compensate for permanent loss of function. From using computers to caring for myriad daily needs such as dressing, cooking, or eating, occupational therapists assist their patients to regain their strength, and dexterity, decision-making, abstract reasoning and problem solving.

To an onlooker, the tasks are daunting both for occupational therapists, and for those receiving care and assistance.

“We look at the whole person. We believe that the core of each person spirit,” says McClintock. “We can work holistically because we constantly change.”

We change our outer and inner environment to adapt to what life offers. Like raising a child, it takes a professional village to support client development. Patience, enthusiasm, common sense, creativity, a wide knowledge base, and a keen interest to interact with their patients, are but a few of the virtues oozing out of the occupational therapists I interviewed.

On May 21, 2014, a letter was presented to Mayor Dan Curtis and city councilors by the representatives of the Association of Yukon Occupational Therapists, and the Yukon Council on Disability with the intention of changing “how we view, talk and think about disability in our community.”

There is a strong movement by these organizations to change the current international symbol for disability, which is a person in a wheelchair, in a passive pose. The new image presents a person in a wheelchair leaning forward — representing engagement, determination, and motivation. It has already been adopted by universities and cities across North America.

The concept that all people with disabilities can be viewed actively is empowering for those disabled persons. We can re-imagine how we view them. Please check out the website www.accessibleicon.org/about.html. Be part of the change, advocate and share process. You readers can also make a difference in how we view those with disabilities. 

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