Occupational Therapy Scope of Practice
The scope of practice includes the domain (what is treated) and process (how it is treated) of occupational therapy services. The domain of occupational therapy is the everyday life activities (occupations) that people find meaningful and purposeful. Within this domain, occupational therapy services enable clients to engage in their everyday life activities in their desired roles, context, and life situations. The occupations in which clients engage occur throughout the lifespan and include:
- Activities of daily living: self-care activities
- Education: activities to participate as a learner in a learning environment
- Instrumental activities of daily living: multi-step activities to care for self and others, such as household management, financial management, and time management
- Leisure: non-obligatory, discretionary, and intrinsically rewarding activities
- Play: spontaneous and organized activities that promote pleasure, amusement, and diversion
- Social participation: activities expected of individuals or individuals interacting with others
- Work: employment-related and volunteer activities)
Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants use their knowledge and skills to help clients “attain and resume daily life activities that support function and health” throughout the lifespan (AOTA, 2002, p. 610). Participation in activities and occupations that are meaningful to the client involves emotional, psychosocial, cognitive, and physical aspects of performance. This participation provides a means to enhance health, well-being, and life satisfaction.
The primary occupations of infants, toddlers, and young children are playing, learning, and interacting with caregivers and, eventually, their peers. Occupational therapy interventions address developmental milestones. It can look like many things, such as (but not limited to):
- Facilitating movement to sit, crawl, or walk independently
- Learning to pay attention and follow simple instructions
- Developing the ability to eat, drink, wash, and dress independently
- Learning to cope with disappointment or failure
- Achieving sensory modulation
- Building skills for sharing, taking turns, and playing with peers
- Participating in age appropriate daily routines.
The primary occupations of older children and teens are:
- Integrating educational instruction in and outside of school
- Forming and maintaining productive friendships
- Beginning the transition to work and becoming more independent
- Participating in higher education
Also, occupational therapy practitioners have training in psychosocial and mental health conditions and are well suited to address children’s emotional and behavioral needs as they relate to everyday activities and social interactions. For example, occupational therapy practitioners help children develop the ability to cope with challenges, and to use calming strategies to deal with frustration, defuse anger, and manage impulsivity in order to succeed at individual tasks and collaborative interactions at home, at school, and in the community.
Is there an overlap?
Physical therapist’s scope of practice overlaps with occupational therapy in several categories including; postural issues, decreased UB/core strength, crossing midline, coordination, and reflex integration.
Speech therapist’s scope of practice overlaps in two areas, cognition/executive functioning/memory and feeding (i.e. self-feeding and food selectivity/refusal).