The Occupational Lens
February 17, 2015
As an occupational therapist, one of the things we are best at is being able to capture the details of any given occupation. We are trained to develop this skill, because we are constantly breaking down activities into components to find out where our clients/patients may experience challenges or successes during a given occupation. From there on, we have a better idea of where our treatment efforts should be focused. With that said, during the course of the program, I’ve gotten better at developing this skill — almost to the point in which I can’t turn it off. Here are some examples of what I would like to call the “OT lens.”
This one time, I was hiking with Leila and her sister at a pretty challenging course. I remember for one of the pathways, the hill incline grade was ridiculously steep (almost 45 degrees). I remember Leila’s sister was wearing one of those drawstring backpacks, in which she had only one strap over her shoulder. Almost automatically, I found the following words coming out of my mouth: “It may be easier if you put on both straps of your backpack on so that way there’s no muscle imbalance. Also, get down more towards the floor to lower your center of gravity, and spread out your feet to increase you base of support; it may be easier to get up the hill.” I remember Leila smirking, and I found myself laughing as well, because I totally OT-geeked out. Best believe we got up that mountain, here’s a pic from the top!
This other time, I was on my way to a concert with some friends from the program. I remember being in the backseat of a full car, faced with a dilemma I’m sure you’ve all been through: trying to find your seatbelt buckle between the tiny crevice between you and your friend, without looking. I remember saying to my friends, wow, the stereognosis demand on this task is through the roof! For those of you that don’t know, stereognosis is defined as the ability to perceive the form of an object utilizing the sense of touch. I debated with my OT homies and they just laughed, saying “Jon, can we not talk about anything school related right now!?” I responded by saying “I’m sorry, I can’t help it! I can’t turn it off!”
To preface these last examples, I’ll give you a little background about my family: it is currently being overran by numerous cute babies. It’s straight up baby land at my family parties. With that said, I find myself sort of becoming the baby guru of my family. I remember one of my cousins was mentioning that her daughter loves to wash her hands. I then asked, “Does she like to do anything regarding water?” She immediately replied, “Yeah. She loves the water.” I replied with, “Well, she may be sensory seeking towards anything that involves water, much alike me.” It’s important to note that during any family party, I will take my niece an average of 4-5 times to wash her hands (even if her hands are clean), and every time I do take her, all I can think to myself is . . . “I feel you girl, I feel you!” Haha lastly, during a recent Superbowl family party I was hanging out with my 9 month nephew and I was rocking him side to side as he rested in my arms. In 5 minutes, he was sleeping . . . a friend called me the baby whisperer, to which I replied “I can’t take the credit . . . it’s the vestibular input magic at work.”
Yeah, sometimes the OT geeking out can get a little crazy and out of control. The fact is, once you’re an OT, you can’t really turn it off. Call it what it is, but it’s one of the things that comes with being an OT: we are trained to analyze people in the context of their meaningful activities; the occupations that are embedded in everyday life. The lens never really comes off, even if you try. I guess idealistically, I would like to compartmentalize school, work, and my personal life, but the fact is, having an OT lens doesn’t feel like work . . . at this point in time, it’s second nature, and it’s something that I love to do. I guess Confucius said it best: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” For me, that’s what occupational therapy is.
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