Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

TRANSITIONAL OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY SERVICES for YOUTH with NEUROLOGIC and DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

TRANSITIONAL OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY SERVICES for YOUTH with NEUROLOGIC and DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES

Article excerpt

Occupational therapists aim to improve client factors and skills that will enable re-engagement or new engagement in valued activities. Valued activities can include work, and community integration, which is one of the instrumental activities of daily living. Typically developing youth and young adults have many life skills to learn to prepare them for post-secondary schooling or independent living, such as money and health management, that are addressed by their families, within the school system, or through career development professionals. However, youth with disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Down Syndrome (DS) require additional help from therapists to learn such skills due to 1) altered abilities to learn and 2) uncertainty of their caregivers on the available options for their loved ones. Most often, parents of youth with disabilities are living day to day or have been accustomed to a level of functioning for the school environment that they might not have a clear picture of what independent living or independent work is like for their children once they are of age. This article seeks to clarify this picture for both families and career specialists that are helping such youth and young adults transition into more independent roles within the context of work and community integration. It will seek to introduce occupational therapy, common diagnoses, legislation and the relation of all to work and independent living for this population. Our perspectives on learning this information through our coursework as graduate students in the San Jose State University Occupational Therapy program will also be provided.

Occupational Therapy Student Coursework Experience

As students of San Jose State University's Department of Occupational Therapy Master's program, we were taught over several classes different topics and common diagnoses affecting transitioning youth with neurologic and developmental disabilities. Our Occupational Therapy with Youth coursework covered topics involving populations from adolescence to age 25. Before taking this course, we were not very familiar with transition services, and the options and resources affecting those services. Neither of us had any personal experiences working with such a population. In this program we learned about school-based occupational therapy as well as how to work with youth with neurologic and developmental disabilities. The curriculum included topics such as the legislation, diagnoses, occupational therapy interventions, transitional services, and other aspects of this particular population. This information is necessary in order to become a wellrounded occupational therapist. For example, we did not understand that there was legislation in place mandating school involvement in the transition planning for youth in high school. We were also unaware of the various levels of independent living options available to young adults with disabilities. There is also a stereotype and unfortunate trend that pediatric occupational therapy is intended to primarily service early intervention or school-aged children, even though we are equipped with skills that can aid youth and adolescents as well. Understandably so, there is a need for more occupational therapists to be involved in such a critical period of development. Therapists most often look to provide resources or work for youth that is located within the community including career professionals that can continue to work with clients or reinforce gains they may have made in therapy. Presented below is information that will help career development professionals when working with clients who have access to occupational therapy services through the schools.

Common Diagnoses and Occupational Therapy Involvement During Transition

Occupational therapists encounter a variety of diagnoses when working with clients who are in transition. Some of the more common neurologic or developmental diagnoses leading to developmental delays requiring occupational therapy intervention include: autism spectrum disorder (ASD), spina bifida, intellectual disability disorder (ID), attention deficit and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD and ADHD), Down syndrome (DS), other developmental or learning disabilities and disorders (i. …

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