How I Explain Occupational Therapy.

Most times when I’m out and about,

someone will ask me what I do for a living. I tell them I’m an occupational therapy assistant for kids. Then come the inevitable questions: So you’re like a career counselor? Kids don’t have jobs though… Do you give kids jobs?

Short answer, no.

After years of giving bumbling answers, I’ve found the most concise yet informative way to  explain what it is I actually do.

I break down the term “occupation”.

What is an occupation? Well, yes it means a job, but the word “job” can have lots of different meanings to lots of different people.

For example, my job is occupational therapy assistant. But my other jobs, or roles, in life are daughter, sister, wife, etc. When I was in school, my job was also “student”.

So in the context of a child, their job before they enter school-age is to play. Once they enter school, their job is still to play, but also their job is now to be a student. What are the job requirements to be a student? to pay attention, to write, read, cut, socialize with peers, etc. As they get into higher grades, their job requirements change accordingly (completing homework/projects, time management, etc). In different settings, their job and requirements might also change. For example, at home their job requirements might include completing chores, meal prep, getting dressed, hygiene, getting a haircut, community safety, etc.

If they’re having difficulties doing any aspect of their age-related “jobs”, an occupational therapist steps in to support them.

This definition doesn’t just work with kids. Let’s say I used to work in a garden, but couldn’t anymore because of a disability or injury, and really wanted to get back into it, I’d reach out to an occupational therapist to help me find accommodations or other strategies to get back to gardening, because gardening was once a meaningful occupation, or job, to me.

What other ways have you heard occupational therapy described?