“People experience different types of barriers in their lives, whether they are physical, social or cultural,” says Scott Thieu, an Occupational Therapist (OT) with the Kids’ Rehabilitation Clinic and the Assistive Technology Service at the IWK. “OTs can help people overcome those barriers so they are able to participate in activities that they find meaningful and important”
While Thieu’s role is mostly consultative, in the sense that he does not provide direct intervention, he supports children, youth and their primary care teams with implementing the plans to achieve their desired goals.
“OT theory talks about “doing” and I truly believe that how we define ourselves as people is expressed and influenced by everything we do. Any type of disruption to what people want to do affects their identity.”
And the true value of the OT lies in enabling those children, youth and their families to accomplish those goal-reaching tasks, rather than doing those tasks for them.
“They are active participants in their care,” says Thieu. “Which is why in OT we refer to them as clients and don’t typically refer to them as patients.”
Thieu started working at the IWK in 2006, shortly after graduating from OT school, and can’t imagine working anywhere else. He says working with clients, through both their triumphs and their challenges, keeps him grounded.
“Children, youth and families undergo so much change, good and bad, when they enter the IWK,” says Thieu. “It can be an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved but being able to connect with so many people at such a deep and intimate level is very rare.”
Many of those connections are with colleagues across a number of disciplines.
“OTs are trained to take a more holistic approach to care, but we recognize that we are not able to address all areas, so this fits very well with working within a team environment,” says Thieu. “The scope of OT is very wide, which makes it very hard to define, and tends to overlap with other professions. However, the OT contributions are unique in a sense that we consider the relationship between the environment, the person, and the actual activity and how it all can influence performance.”
Thieu hopes OT Month is a chance not only for the public to learn more about occupational therapy but also a chance for his colleagues to recognize the value of their work.
“OTs are notoriously self-deprecating, and I hope to see more of our IWK OTs contributing to evidence-based practice and in leadership positions. I feel our skills as OTs are applicable to other levels beyond direct care.”