Five OTA Specialty Certifications to Consider
April 22, 2014
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After working as an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) for a year or so, you may want to acquire a specialty certification, which is a credential that can take your career to a higher level. If you are interested in a particular area, spend some time shadowing a certified therapist in that field to make sure you understand what it entails. It is best to take your time and carefully weigh your options before you make such a decision.
Through classwork and experience, your OTA curriculum will equip you with the skills necessary to work in these specialty areas. Foundational courses such as psychology, biology and anatomy will teach you about medical disorders and help you understand how they can hinder daily tasks. You will also have to take courses in treatment and rehabilitation so you can implement an occupational therapist's recommendations for using strategies, adaptive equipment or special training to alleviate these hindrances. Below are five specialty certifications to consider that are offered by the American Occupational Therapy Association:
Driving and Community Mobility
This is a diverse area that encompasses all aspects of mobility within the community, including walking, bicycling, driving a car and using public transport. When an injury or disability affects a person's physical, mental or sensory functions, he or she may not be able to drive normally. Driving rehabilitation or being trained in alternative modes of transit can help patients regain mobility and independence.
For example, you may teach a paraplegic how to use accelerator and braking hand controls to drive a car. If patients can no longer drive, you may help them learn how to use a bus, an endeavor that would include knowing where and when to board and where to disembark.
Disabled people can often benefit from modifications to their home, school and work environments. As you teach patients how to perform tasks in an altered space, you will help them carry out their daily activities in a safer and easier manner. Your training could even enable someone to retain their vocation after learning alternative ways to execute job-related duties.
Part of your work could include reorganizing the kitchen cabinets of a homemaker who has severe arthritis that makes it difficult to reach up high and bend down low. You could help by rearranging cooking essentials so that the most frequently used items are easily accessible.
Feeding, Eating and Swallowing
Neurological conditions can impair one's ability to eat and swallow normally, which can cause someone to not consume enough food or nutrients for optimal health. Psychosocial problems may also have a detrimental influence in this area. Your OTA assessments and interventions could alleviate some of the difficulty a disabled person experiences in the eating process.
In your role, you might teach a stroke victim with a weak grasp how to eat with utensils with built-up handles. Or, you could train a patient with limited range of motion in their arm and hand to eat using an angled spoon.
Disease, injury and age can all affect vision and limit someone's ability to function in a daily routine. Common medical conditions that reduce vision include macular degeneration and glaucoma, as well as diabetic neuropathy and brain damage. However, most people with these conditions have some usable vision that you can harness so they can perform their daily activities with the help of assistive technology.
For example, you might work on visual scanning exercises with macular degeneration patients. Because they are missing a portion of their central visual field, scanning could enable them to use their peripheral vision to compensate. You may also help a visually impaired person use optical devices and magnifiers to read.
This new specialty emerged in 2013 for OTAs who work with students age three to 21. Children in elementary and secondary schools, along with those in post-school settings, can have many types of disabilities that hinder their academic success. These students can often benefit from the interventions of an OTA.
If children have trouble writing, you might help them by providing sensory stimulation and giving them exercises that increase their attention to lines and designs. You also might help children with developmental coordination disorders by undertaking activities that would improve their motor skills or by teaching them alternative ways to perform school-related tasks.
The certification specialties are quite varied in this profession, so you are likely to find one about which you feel passionate. Regardless of your selection, be assured your efforts will make a difference in the lives of your patients. The therapy you provide will improve their ability to function within the confines of their disability, which is a satisfying accomplishment.
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