evaluation, lifespan, occupational therapy, occupations, therapy

What is Occupational Therapy?

The simplest way to explain OT is this: therapy that targets ‘participation in everyday living’ (AOTA). The ‘occupation’ in occupational therapy refers to a wide variety of life activities, including:

  • Activities of daily living (ADLs) – taking care of one’s own body in ways that enable basic survival and well-being (e.g., bathing, showering, toileting, dressing, eating, functional mobility, hygiene, and sexual activity)
  • Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) – more complex home and community activities (e.g., care of others, care of pets, communication management, driving, financial management, health management, clothing and home management, cooking and cleaning, shopping, spiritual activities, and home safety and maintenance)
  • Rest and sleep
  • Education
  • Work and volunteering
  • Play and leisure
  • Social participation

From an OT perspective, functional engagement, participation and health can be impacted by many factors. For example, the environment and social supports are just as impactful as a client’s individual factors. OTs look at the big picture surrounding a client’s limitations and use meaningful occupations (things the client enjoys and/or wants to be able to do) as both a means and an end to improve function. Depending on the client, the therapeutic process might include coaching, skill development, environmental adaptations, task accommodations, and collaboration with other professionals to maximize a client’s development, recovery from an injury or illness, or ability to age in place.

When a client is referred for occupational therapy, regardless of the setting, the basic process will include an evaluation, intervention (treatment), and targeted outcomes (goals). Sometimes this process is brief, while other times therapy may need to continue for a longer period of time. The end goals are always the same, however: maximal independence and fulfillment in daily life, whatever that may look like for a client.

For more information, download this brochure, visit AOTA’s website, or watch this video that highlights the broad scope of OT:

evaluation, lifespan, sensory processing

The Sensory Processing Three Dimensions Scale (SP3D)

Why is getting an accurate and thorough sensory processing disorder (SPD) diagnosis so hard? There are a few major factors, but here’s a big one:

There are virtually no quality clinical tests to assess for it.

Right now, the only clinical tests for SPD are old and outdated and are only for children 8 years old and younger.

Clinicians who have specialized training can use their judgment and reasoning to document signs and symptoms of SPD that are apparent when using other, primarily motor-based assessments or by testing for “soft” signs of neurological impairments. This isn’t always a very accurate method and does not always convince physicians and insurance companies of the validity of an SPD diagnosis.

The only other way of assessing for SPD are questionnaires that have been standardized* (like the Sensory Profile and Sensory Processing Measure), but these are limited by how aware of symptoms the person filling out the questionnaire is (usually a parent, teacher, and/or the person being tested). These questionnaires are also limited in the scope of symptoms assessed and may not provide a complete or accurate picture of symptoms. (*Standardized means the assessment tool has been researched on a sample of people of varying abilities and statistically analyzed to determine what is “typical” and “atypical”.)

Now, here’s the good news: There is a new test in development for clinical assessment of SPD!

The test was developed by clinicians and researchers at the STAR Institute for SPD and the University of New Hampshire and is being published by Western Psychological Services.

The test is called The Sensory Processing Three Dimensions Scale (SP3D) and is the first assessment for SPD with a version for teens and adults. It consists of seven subtests and assesses symptoms of SPD across all three subtypes (sensory modulation disorder, sensory discrimination disorder, and sensory-based motor disorder).

You can help by volunteering to participate in research.

There are several trained clinicians across the United States who are collecting data by giving the assessment to a wide variety of people. You can apply here to see if you qualify to participate!