Techniques and equipment used in occupational therapy  

Many different techniques and equipment can be used as part of occupational therapy, depending on the difficulties you are having.

Some of these techniques are explained below.

Thinking about activities differently

A key aim of occupational therapy is to help you develop or maintain a satisfying routine of meaningful everyday activities that can give you a sense of direction and purpose.

This can include help with budgeting, domestic or personal care routines, leisure activities, and involvement in work or voluntary activities.

An occupational therapist will look at the activity you are finding difficult and see if there is another way it can be completed.

For example, if you are finding it difficult to:

  • peel and chop vegetables – perhaps you could buy vegetables that are already prepared
  • walk to your local shop – perhaps there is a bus that runs past your house, or you may be able to do your shopping on the internet
  • do the ironing – perhaps you could sit down while you iron

An occupational therapist will also help find new ways to carry out an activity by breaking it down into small individual movements, and will then practise the stages with you.

For example, if you cannot get up from a chair without assistance, an occupational therapist will go through each stage of the movement with you until you can confidently get up on your own.

If appropriate, the occupational therapist may suggest a special chair.

For children, an occupational therapist may develop a game or activity that they can complete each day.

This could be aimed at improving your child's:

  • hand strength
  • concentration
  • social skills

Focusing on a small goal, such as improved hand strength, may eventually help your child to hold a spoon, a pencil or dress themselves.

Adapting your environment

Part of occupational therapy may involve making an environment suitable for your needs.

This could be your home, workplace or where you are studying, and may involve changes such as:

  • putting in ramps, so an area can be accessed in a wheelchair
  • fitting a stairlift
  • installing grab rails – for example, by the stairs or beside the bed
  • providing a raised toilet seat, bath lift or shower seat to make the bathroom easier to use
  • clearing up clutter, reorganising cupboards or providing visual cues so you can safely move around and reach what you need

Using special equipment

Occupational therapists can also advise about what special tools or pieces of equipment you may find helpful. For example:

  • a walking stick, walking frame or a wheelchair
  • electric can openers or electric toothbrushes
  • knives with large handles and chunky pens (if you have difficulty holding small objects)
  • a non-slip mat for the bath
  • a special keyboard or mouse to help you use a computer
  • voice-controlled lights or voice-controlled software on a computer

You should mention any difficulties to your occupational therapist, no matter how small they seem, as there may be all kinds of adapted equipment that can help.

For example, you could have a special comb to style your hair more easily, or a device to turn the pages of a book.

 

Video: living with a disability

Tim, Celia, Kate and Peter describe how they found their own way to cope with their disability, including how they changed their homes and ways to continue working.

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Page last reviewed: 23/08/2014

Next review due: 23/08/2016