Students at Lou Mendive Middle School get a lesson in helping patients gain their independence.
How many young people consider a career in occupational therapy? Not very many. So Holly Thompson, occupational therapist with Renown Physical Therapy and Rehab, set out to change that with a recent visit to Lou Mendive Middle School.
Holly’s purpose? To provide students with knowledge of what occupational therapy (OT) is — the therapeutic implementation of work, self-care and play activities to increase development and help prevent disability. Occupational therapists work with people suffering from various conditions including autism and the aftermath of stroke and traumatic brain injury.
Immersed in a classroom of eighth graders, Holly captivated her audience with an impactful exercise about her specialty. She asked the students what activities they do with their hands. Responses ran the gamut from playing sports and thumb wrestling to all-important functions like hand gestures and sign language.
She then distributed gloves, crackers and applesauce displayed on a nearby table.
Many of Holly’s patients can’t use their hands — stroke survivors with nerve damage, patients who have undergone an amputation and are learning to use prosthetics, or those who have experienced a brain injury and suffer from paralysis in their extremities.
Without the use of their hands, patients can’t eat. So Holly gave the youth a lesson in “uncomfortable” sharing by instructing them to feed a classmate. Students experienced, if only for a moment, what it’s like to not be able to do something as simple as eat.
OT is a far-reaching treatment, which is generally overlooked until an individual finds it necessary.
In fact, occupational therapists are in high demand. And according to reports from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), occupational therapy consistently ranks as a top career choice and is considered recession proof. Holly was excited to present to the young students the importance of this field and the viability of OT as a career.
Although the exercise was just one example of the service that Holly renders to her patients, it gave the students a clearer picture of the significance of OT in helping individuals regain their independence.