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Understanding occupational therapy

PLATTSBURGH - "To Live Life to Its Fullest" is the motto of occupational therapists at CVPH Medical Center. For April, Occupational Therapy Month, they want people to understand how they do it.

Troy Canada, who has been doing occupational therapy for nine years, explained many people don't realize OT is far different from physical therapy.

"Even the doctors still don't know the difference between OT and PT," he said. "We're really two opposite ends of the spectrum."

Canada explained OT helps people work on "self-care types of deficits."

"The things that people have to do to take care of themselves on a daily basis," he said. "That also includes things like home management; being able to prepare their own meals."

Physical therapy, on the other hand, literally helps people gain back their physical abilities.

"We do cross paths a little bit," Canada explained of OT and PT. "Because, in order to be able to walk to the kitchen to be able to prepare meals, sometimes you'll work on getting from one place to the other, to make sure that you can do that safely."

One way in which occupational therapists work with clients is by giving them adaptive equipment, Canada said.

"Like sock aids to get their socks on, or ... long-handled reachers so they can get dressed. Things like that," he explained.

OT, however, can be broken down into various subgroups, such as hand therapy or lymphedema, or pediatrics.

Becky McCambridge, a hand therapist, works with various injuries.

"She does upper extremity disfunction," said Canada. "So, whether someone has carpel tunnel syndrome, shoulder injuries, she makes splints for people's hands and arms."

Occupational therapists also work in the school system.

"With kids that have different learning deficits," Canada said. "We try to make it so they can function in school. Give teachers any type of techniques to make it easier for the student to be able to focus on learning objectives."

Although the root word of OT is "occupation," Canada said it doesn't just pertain to people who have jobs or careers.

"The term 'occupation' could be anyone's occupation," he said. "If you're a student, your occupation is a student. We work on that person being able to function in that particular role."

Currently, for someone to receive services from an OT at CVPH, they must receive a referral from their doctor.

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