Hand in Hand: OT and AT

occupational therapy and assistive technologyGuest Post by Stephanie Lancaster, OTR/L, ATP

As an occupational therapist specializing in assistive technology, I see a lot of parallels between the fields of OT and AT, things that seem to make the two go hand in hand in many ways.

One of the things that initially drew me to a career in OT is the holistic view taken by practitioners in the field that considers all of the factors that play a role in the challenges faced by an individual with a disability or an illness, from the mental health issues grief and self-image to social factors such as support systems and community involvement to the physical symptoms experienced by an individual.  Another thing about OT that I love is the practice of considering one’s strengths as well as the deficit areas, which encourages the viewing of the person as an individual, not a patient and not a disease or condition.  And yet another thing is the focus on occupation and on client-centered function; OT’s as a whole tend to strive for engagement of those with whom they work by centering intervention around things that are important to the client, which serves to create an atmosphere of respect and motivation.  OT’s in general seem to abide by a whatever-it-takes type of philosophy, and we typically have quite an assortment of materials and strategies to employ as needed to assist a client in meeting his or her goals.

Assistive technology focuses on function for the individuals who use it as well; the appropriate use of AT materials and strategies can contribute to the independence of an individual, thus facilitating his or her ability to participate in activities that are important to him or her.  Another similarity between OT and AT is the consideration in each field of the tasks that are required as part of the roles in which the client serves as well as the environments in which those roles are carried out.

The overarching goal of the use of AT is to support function in that individual, which is also in alignment with the principles of OT intervention.  Many people who benefit from the use of AT have improved their functional skills, independence, productivity, social participation, and/or overall health through the use of equipment and through tactics that have been carefully selected to meet their needs based on their specific situation, thus improving the lives of each client in an intimate yet comprehensive way.


About the Author

Stephanie Lancaster guest postStephanie has been practicing as an occupational therapist for over 22 years, 19 of which were spent working for a large public school district in the Memphis, Tennessee, area as an OT with a focus on A.T.  She holds a specialty certification as an Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) through the Rehab Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA).  She has recently joined the faculty in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center as the Faculty Practice Coordinator.  Her professional interests include working with individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers, and other professionals in the field through direct intervention, consultation, training, and research efforts to decrease barriers for people with special needs through strategic design, selection, and implementation of A.T. materials and devices based on thorough assessment of individual needs.

Read more by visiting Stephanie’s blog, Hand in Hand, at http://stephanielancasterot.wordpress.com