Occupational therapists celebrate Occupational Therapy Month

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FARMINGTON – Occupational therapy, a health profession that helps persons whose lives have been affected by illness or injury, can benefit the tiniest of newborn infants, senior citizens, and every age in between.

“Occupational therapy can help the worker injured on the job, the senior citizen with arthritis trying to manage at home, and the school child struggling to master handwriting,” said Marie Wade, FMH Director of Physical Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine. “Occupational therapy helps people master the skills for the job of living.”

This month, Franklin Memorial Hospital’s occupational therapists are celebrating National Occupational Therapy Month. They include: Alice VanDerwerken MS, OT/L, CHT; Barbara White MS, OTR/L; Sara W. Folsom, MS, OTR/L; Aerica Richards, MOT, OTR/L; and Jessaka Nichols, MS, OTR/L.

FMH occupational therapists include from left front: Sara Folsom, Alice VanDerwerken, and Aerica Richards. in back: Jessaka Nichols and Barbara White.

“One of our occupational therapist, Alice VanDerwerken, is a certified hand therapist. She works specifically with any type of upper extremity injury. This could be related to an occupational injury or some other type of trauma. Alice is one of 12 certified hand therapists in the state,” said Wade. “Some common conditions she may treat include tendon repairs, nerve injuries and partial amputations of the hand. Many of our patients travel a significant distance to access Alice’s expertise.”

Within an adult population, occupational therapists work closely with patients who may have arthritis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological disorders that can affect the ability to carry out daily living activities like dressing and eating. Occupational therapists teach new ways, or provide ingenious equipment to help carry out these tasks, making their patients as independent and safe as possible.

“More than one-fourth of the occupational therapists in the country work in school systems, where they help children pursue the ‘occupations’ of learning, playing, and growing,” said Wade. “Three of our five occupational therapists work within the school systems in Franklin County and the need
for occupational therapy services for children is on the rise in this area.”

The OT staff works closely with teachers, speech therapists, and physical therapists to assure a comprehensive, essential multidisciplinary team effort. Children are often referred to occupational therapy for help in handwriting, a skill necessary for the “job” of student. But, occupational therapy also helps those with developmental deficits, learning disabilities, physical injuries, and psychological and social disabilities.

People interested in learning more about the occupational therapy profession are encouraged to visit the American Occupational Therapy Association Web site at www.aota.org. You may also learn more about the occupational therapy services provided at Franklin Memorial Hospital at www.fchn.org/fmh/services/rehabilitation.

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