Tag Archive for: occupational therapy


OT Can Help with Visual Impairment

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

My grandmother is legally blind.  She first lost her hearing in her 60’s but managed this well with hearing aids and the ability to lip read.  She also learned some sign language.  Then, in her 70’s, her sight also started to fail her.  This progressed until she was left with what she calls “cheese cloth” and shadow vision in her right eye and minimal, if any, vision in her left.  While adjusting to failing sight was of course difficult for her, adjusting to also losing the ability to lip read and communicate with people was an even bigger challenge.  She had always used her vision to compensate for her hearing loss and this was no longer an option.

As an occupational therapist I have worked with people who have low vision, and can say that no two people will experience this the same.  First of all, vision loss, and legal blindness, do not mean total blindness, so the first step is always trying to understand what people can see and the ways their vision continues to work (or not) for them.   This of course involves multiple professionals, but as occupational therapy is about “function” we need to look at how their vision works, and doesn’t work, in the environments in which they live and access.

Of course, safety is always the primary concern when dealing with vision loss.  Safety in the home involves looking at fall risk, ease of mobility, cooking and meal preparation, and of course the ability to respond to an emergency.  In the community this involves how someone with vision loss can negotiate roads and streets, manage around other people, complete paperwork at stores and offices, and avoid compromising situations such as becoming victimized or managing money transactions.  Transportation is also an issue and getting from A to B usually involves the use of an attendant, taxi, or walking via a service dog or with the use of a white cane (which is mainly used to notify others of a visual impairment and to detect obstacles).

So as an occupational therapist, what type of strategies do we employ?  Well, of course it will vary depending on the amount of vision someone has and of course the functional tasks they want to achieve.  But here are the main ways we help:

Sleep – insomnia is a significant problem for people with vision loss.  Lack of sight can impact the sleep / wake cycle and restlessness is a common problem.  Yet, with poor sleep comes poor physical, emotional and cognitive function in the days following so addressing sleep issues is very important.  For this we can help by suggesting sleep and relaxation CD’s, mindfulness methods to reduce anxiety and mental unrest, and positioning aids to promote comfort.  Helping people to creating predictable sleep / wake cycles is also important.  Some audiobooks are also helpful provided they promote cognitive rest, and not cognitive stimulation.  We also discourage television or computer use, or listening to news or world events before bed as this can also stimulate the mind making sleep more difficult.

Personal Care – it is very important that someone with a visual impairment have a consistent personal care routine.  This helps to promote sleep / wake cycles and keeps the body on a predictable schedule.  The bathroom can be a very unsafe place if equipment is not provided to ensure transfers in / out of the shower or tub are safe, it is easy to get on / off the toilet without grabbing the towel rack, and to prevent falls that can be common in this space.  Organization is key to ensuring that the individual can find the items they need when they need them, without unnecessary and timely searching.  Lighting and contrast on bottles or counters, and using shapes to identify objects is helpful.

Cooking – there are many ways to address function in the kitchen, but the main ingredient is always organization.  People with visual impairment need things to be consistently placed where they expect to find them.  Their ability to search and locate is impaired, and thus it is inefficient (and unsafe) for them to be rummaging through drawers or cupboards to find cooking utensils or other items.  Color contrast is also important.  Using tape, foam, Dycem, stickers, markers, or even shelf paper we can adjust surfaces to promote contrast or to re-label items in larger print.  Items can also be purchased in different colors or shapes, depending on what is easier for the individual to see.  There are several other devices and tools that can also be used to help someone with a visual impairment to know when they have filled a pot or glass, to know the buttons on the microwave, to more safely chop or cut, and lighting in the space is very important (but note that too bright and too dark can both be problematic).

Technology – there are many technology aids and devices that can promote the function of someone who is visually impaired.  Voice recognition software, text to talk technology, closed circuit readers, and Siri-managed phones and tablets.  Using a computer, someone who is visually impaired can order groceries online, do their banking, shop, communicate with others, read the paper, and interact with the world.  This allows them to function in needed and purposeful ways, but safely and independently.

As you can tell, most of these suggestions involve the environment and modifying this to promote function.  That is really the heart of occupational therapy – if we can’t change the person or the impairments they experience, we can at least adjust their environment to accommodate their needs, compensate for any deficits and promote independence.  But this of course also requires the by-in from other people using the space as without the entire family on board, the strategies could get lost after implementation.

My grandmother functions extremely well for someone with both hearing and vision loss.  She is probably the smartest person I know at 88 years old.  I fully believe that she now compensates for her deficits with her extremely sharp mind that allows her to retain and remember everything.  As my dad says “she is blind in one eye and sharp as a tack in the other”.  She is an inspiration and has managed to adjust to some significant challenges in her later years.  However, I do get concerned when I visit and she wants me to read her scale so she knows how much she weighs.  I always ask her what she wants to hear and her response is something along the lines of “you are a rotten kid”…something her and my grandfather always called me – especially when I took a quarter off them playing cribbage.


Originally posted February 2015


Christmas Gifts That Are OT Approved!

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

If you’re a keen and organized shopper, I’m sure you have the majority of your holiday gifts already purchased, and if you’re anything like my Mother had everything done and wrapped in August! However, if you’re anything like my husband, you are waiting until the 24th to think about Christmas.

Although Santa and his Elves are hard at work building the toys your children put on their Christmas wish list, there may be a few items you still need to purchase.

We consulted our talented team of Pediatric Occupational Therapists and are happy to provide you with some fun but functional gift inspiration. These are gifts that are educational and stimulate child development:

1. BOOKS: Although technically not toys, books make an excellent gift. Fostering a love of reading in children from an early age is essential in development of language and literacy skills, while building creativity and imagination. And so many types of books exist! Beyond regular books, pop-up books, and interactive books, there are even books where you can record your voice, or the voice of a loved one into the story so that person is “reading” to your child. This is great for those people in your life who are out of town and are not able to “read” bedtime stories in person.

2. TOYS THAT MAKE THEM THINK: Look for puzzles, games, shaper sorters, science kits and more. Problem solving through play is fantastic for the mind and will help them become independent problem solvers in life. But be prepared to explore and learn with them. Interactive parent-child time through new learning is also essential to development!

3. TOYS THAT GET THEM MOVING: We’re living in the sedentary age of technology where obesity is on the rise. Try some active toys like a skipping rope, scooter, ride on toy, a bike or winter sports gear like skates, skis or snowshoes. But with all riding toys, include the helmet too! Keeping kids active is extremely important for both their physical and mental health!

4. TOYS THAT BRING OUT THEIR CREATIVE SIDE: Fostering creativity in kids at an early age is important for their development. Looks for gifts that will encourage them to be creative like art kits, dress up clothes or crafts and supplies.

5. AN EXPERIENCE THEY WON’T FORGET: Too many toys to choose from? Why not treat the children to an experience instead. Consider tickets to a sporting event, a play, or musical or a child-appropriate concert. Special events like these create fantastic memories and can strengthen family bonds.

We hope you find some gift inspiration from our tips and with you very Happy Holidays!


Originally posted December 8, 2014


Help Make OT Services More Affordable For All

The profession of Occupational Therapy is holistic, comprehensive, and addresses the many challenges children, adults and seniors face throughout the lifespan.  Through direct therapy, education, devices, and consultation, Occupational Therapy helps people to manage better physically, emotionally, cognitively and behaviorally while completing tasks at home, work, school, or in the community.  So, if OT is so helpful, why is it not included on most benefit plans?  It is time to help people to have access to this impactful profession!

You can help by signing and sharing the petition by clicking on the link below. By signing you are asking for insurance companies, major unions and large employers to recognize OT as a valuable service and include OT services in Extended Health Benefits.

Together we can create change!  Include Occupational Therapy on Extended Health Benefit Plans


The Picky Eating Problem

Do you have a child that is a picky eater?  For many this is a common issue and another reason that parents seek OT services for their child. While it is normal for kids to have food preferences and dislikes, picky eating can be very concerning for parents.

Occupational Therapists can work with families to create solutions tailored to the individual child. In general we suggest some of the following tips:

– Remove the pressure
– Allow the child to “play with their food”
– Encourage food exploration on their own terms
– Maintain a consistent meal-time routine
– Introduce changes and new foods slowly – overcoming picky eating is a very gradual process

Watch our video below to learn more on how an Occupational Therapist can help families overcome the picky eating problem and raise healthy, happy eaters.


Occupational Therapy Works For Personal Injury

October is Occupational Therapy month in Canada.  This month we will be celebrating and sharing on our blog everything OT.  In our OT Month series, “OT Works Here,” we will be highlighting some of the key areas in which OT works to change lives by providing solutions for living.

Today we want to highlight the many ways that Occupational Therapy works in cases of personal injury in the following infographic:


Occupational Therapy Works In The Workplace

October is Occupational Therapy month in Canada.  This month we will be celebrating and sharing on our blog everything OT.  In our OT Month series, “OT Works Here,” we will be highlighting some of the key areas in which OT works to change lives by providing solutions for living.

Today we want to highlight the many ways that Occupational Therapy works in the workplace in the following infographic:


Occupational Therapy Works For Kids

October is Occupational Therapy month in Canada.  This month we will be celebrating and sharing on our blog everything OT.  In our OT Month series, “OT Works Here,” we will be highlighting some of the key areas in which OT works to change lives by providing solutions for living.

Today we want to highlight the many ways that Occupational Therapy works for kids in the following infographic: