What does an Occupational Therapist (OT) do?

Occupational therapy is part of the allied health stream that focuses on rehabilitation and helping people improve and maintain their independence. The foundation of OT work is to assist individuals to fulfill their goals (in both health and personal areas) through enhancing ‘occupation’; i.e., improving skills in leisure, self-care, vocation, and employment, or by altering the person’s physical surroundings to better appeal to their requirements. As such, many occupational therapists are funded by the NDIS when engaged in working with children and adults with medical diagnoses, injuries, and disabilities.

What are some things that OT can help with?

OTs can provide therapy for a wide variety of complications, and often work with people with conditions such as intellectual and physical disabilities, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, psychiatric conditions, physical injuries, and amputations. However, OTs may also work with people who do not have diagnosed medical conditions, although it is common for them to engage with individuals with chronic conditions. OT can help someone raise their social and interpersonal skills, improve their ability to care for themselves (e.g., basic self-care, meal preparation, using transport or financial management), enhance their organization and attention skills, help them get their driver’s license, and support them with work or vocational ambitions.

What is the NDIS?

In 2013, the Australian government began introducing the National Disability Insurance Scheme to trial sites across Australia. In July 2016, the complete introduction of the scheme began across the country. This new scheme is the way Australians (up until the age of 65 years) with chronic medical conditions and disabilities can access services and supports to help improve their daily living abilities. It is estimated that more than 4 million Australians have a disability, making the NDIS a crucially important strategy to help some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens. To receive funding, a person must provide required information about their medical condition (e.g., medical reports or letters) and show how their disability is impacting on their ability to live their life.

What can the NDIS help with?

There is an immense range of services that the NDIS can offer. These options are divided into three main categories under the scheme: Core Supports, Capacity Building Supports and Capital Supports. Below is a brief description of some examples of assistance individuals can avail of under the NDIS.

‘Core supports’ involves assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). This commonly includes the use of disability support workers aiding people with their daily tasks or helping them access their community. For instance, a support worker may help a person with bathing, dressing or cooking, or help them attend their social activities. This is also a good start to find your best job.

The ‘capacity building’ section of funding generally allows people to access therapeutic services, such as speech pathology, physiotherapy or OT. This section enables people to avail of allied health services that help improve their overall independence and functioning.

‘Capital supports’ includes funding allocated for equipment and assistive technology. This can include a variety of resources such as home or car modifications, specialized equipment (e.g., wheelchairs, beds), assistive technology tools (e.g., electronics to improve communication for those with speech difficulties), and accommodation (for people requiring intensive supports).

Occupational therapy under the NDIS

OT falls under the ‘capacity building’ category of supports, as occupational therapists are allied health professionals that specialize in ameliorating people’s capacity to sustain themselves, achieve their occupational goals and live a life that is as meaningful as possible. OTs can also help people to establish personal and health objectives, better cope with their daily obligations and routines, and suggest possible tasks to heighten their social and community participation.

OTs collaborate with people of all ages, from young children to adults and the elderly. As the NDIS supports people 65 years old and under, examples of specific ways an OT may be involved in their client’s care include:

  • Performing various standardized assessments such as functional assessments, sensory profile tests, support needs assessments, or assessments looking at independent living skills
  • Prescribing home and driving modifications
  • Prescribing assistive technology equipment
  • Providing assistance for transport or travel training
  • Assessments for housing for people requiring specialist accommodation (high needs clients)
  • Assessing supports needed or employment, or assisting with or coordinating training supports
  • Working with children build basic and essential developmental skills such as fine and gross motor skills; attention, memory and organization skills; social and interpersonal skills

How to find occupational therapists funded by the NDIS

While many people with NDIS funding may use any therapy services they wish, and indeed this freedom of choice is a core value of the scheme, there are registered service providers. These registered services (which may be an organization or an individual) undergo NDIS qualification processes to ensure that they have appropriate expertise and qualifications to provide specific supports. As a great plethora of potential support categories exists under the scheme, providers only have credentials to engage clients in clearly defined sections.

To find an OT service that holds proper registration, visit the official NDIS website, as this contains a list of registered providers. Alternatively, you may ask for information or suggestions from your coordinator or caseworker. Moreover, completing an internet search for ‘occupational therapists funded by the NDIS’ will garner results of OT businesses located near you.