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What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) is frequently part of the treatment plan for individuals with neuromuscular disease. OT focuses on developing and strengthening the fine motor skills needed to perform many daily tasks.

While physical therapy focuses on gross motor skills, occupational therapy focuses upon improving the fine motor skills in the hands. These skills are needed to perform activities of daily living including self-care, activities related to career and employment, and activities involved in recreation and play. An occupational therapist may help an individual determine what types of assistive devices might best help that person. Devices might include splints, aides for reaching objects, and specially designed objects, for example eating utensils with special handles for easier use. An occupational therapist may also recommend environmental adaptations that help improve functioning.

Occupational therapy can be provided for both children and adults. The cost of occupational therapy may be covered by an individual’s health care coverage. The cost for recommended workplace adaptations may be covered by an individual’s employer as a ‘reasonable accommodation,’ in accordance with disability law. In children, OT services may be provided as part of a child’s education and are often specified in the Individualized Educational Program (IEP).

As with many areas involving neuromuscular disease, research regarding occupational therapy for individuals with neuromuscular disease remains needed. For example, a review of literature regarding occupational therapy for hand functioning in adults with neuromuscular disease determined that there is limited evidence for the usefulness of such therapy (Cup, et al., 2008).

Because fine motor functioning and the health needs of individual with neuromuscular disease can vary greatly, it is important to find an occupational therapist with knowledge and experience with neuromuscular disease. Referral from one’s physician will likely be needed. In the U.S., the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) network of specialty clinics provide assessment and referral during clinic visits.

Resources:
About Occupational Therapy. American Occupational Therapy Association website, (2013 ). Retrieved from http://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy.aspx on 12/12/13.

Cup E. H., et al., (2008). The evidence for occupational therapy for adults with neuromuscular diseases: a systematic review. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health 2008; 28(1): 12-18. A review of this article can be retrieved from http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/crdweb/ShowRecord.asp?LinkFrom=OAI&ID=12008008098#.UqnW7uLWNkA .

MDA website, (n.d.). Physical and Occupational Therapy. Retrieved from http://mda.org/services/your-mda-clinic/health-care-team/pt-ot on 12/12/13.

Wahl, M., Occupational Therapy for Children. Quest, 6(6). Retrieved from http://quest.mda.org/article/occupational-therapy-children on 12/12/13.

Wahl, M., (1999). Occupational Therapy Leads the Way: Skills for the job of living. Quest, 6(5). Retrieved from
http://quest.mda.org/article/occupational-therapy-leads-way on 12/12/13.


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