Nicole Tan is an Occupational Therapist at a2z Health Group, which provides occupational therapy, speech therapy, and dietetics. For more, click here

When we hear the word “occupation”, we immediately think of a profession or the type of work that people do. In Occupational Therapy, occupation means more than just “work”; occupation refers to the everyday things that we do.

An occupation can be anything that you do on your own, with your family and friends or in the communities which you occupy. We can have occupations for leisure (fun), personal care, and productivity (work). Eating, reading, dancing, cooking, going to the gym, and even going to the bathroom are all considered occupations!

Take the following for example: Billy is a 4-year old who loves playing with his dinosaurs (leisure). When he’s not learning his alphabets and numbers at kinder (productivity), Billy is very helpful at home. He is proud that he can put on his pyjamas and brush his teeth, all on his own (personal care).

In another example: Sarah calls herself an Accountant (productivity) by day and a yoga instructor by night (leisure+productivity). Despite her busy schedule and two full-time jobs, Sarah still manages to go for brunch on Saturday with her friends and family (leisure/social) and keeps her house spick-and-span and does all her laundry (personal care)!

Just like a career, occupations can bring a lot of meaning and purpose to our lives. The things that we choose to do, have to do, or are expected to do, are important in shaping who we are and how we see ourselves.

Nancy calls herself a plant-enthusiast because she enjoys gardening, Ryan sees himself as a carer because he looks after his grandmother, Eloise call calls herself a student because she is learning how to become a vet at college, and Michael calls himself an artist because he paints pictures of cats in his free time.

Now that we have a better understanding of occupations, which basically comprises of anything and everything we do in life, we also know that Sarah’s story may sound too perfect to some, and you’re right.  Learning to manage the things that you want, need and are expected to do can be tricky. Having an added layer of injury or disability can really pose a challenge to engaging in these activities.

This is where Occupational Therapists come in! OTs do our best to help people of all abilities and backgrounds participate in everyday life activities which are important to them. OTs do this by taking the time to understand you, your likes/dislikes, strengths and what is important to you, be it putting on your shoes or being able to get to bingo every Thursday.

OTs work with you, your family and support team to problem solve ways for you to achieve this by either enhancing your ability (teaching you tricks or recommending some assistive technology/equipment, e.g., a long-handled shoe horn) or modifying the occupation or environment (e.g., finding a Bingo place closer to home).

Apart from being person-centred, OTs work collaboratively with the people closest to you to empower not only you, but also your support team with education, so that they can best help you. As part of your support team, we believe in helping you become as independent and engaged with the community as possible!

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