In the digital era, there exist a plethora of technologies available to aid occupational therapists, speech pathologists, teachers and parents in the occupational therapy process.
As people are developing more sophisticated solutions to overcoming biopsychosocial challenges, occupational therapists may find themselves seeking highly tailored technology assistance, or perhaps using simple, widely available options that can be found on mobile and tablet devices for their patients.
As is always the case, tools themselves don’t provide true aid; skillful and prudent use directly influences a tools’ true benefit. To explore the realm of fairly inexpensive, widely available and easily accessible options, look no further than the palm of your hand. Of course, phones and tablets demand a wide range of price points, but it’s also true that most people will calculate phone costs into their lifestyle.
Additionally, there are pre-programmed options built into phones and tablets created specifically to assist users who may have sight or hearing challenges, such as speech to text or text to speech functions. A simple investigation online or in a store can lead to knowing which capabilities already exist on a phone/tablet and how to activate them. Display settings and graphics are more sophisticated than ever, so don’t miss the obvious opportunities to add assistive benefits for patients.
Applications for games, activities and other functionality may serve as supplemental ways to practice life skills and sharpen cognitive functions. YouTube and blogs can provide tons of pragmatic ideas that are fairly easy to implement. Most apps are easy to find, because the developers want to promote them and gain popularity.
Feedspot produced a super helpful list of the “Top 15 Occupational Therapy Youtube Channels to Follow in 2018.” They’ve already aggregated the information and shared these niche occupational therapist bloggers on their feed.
You can test them out, subscribe or even create your own channel, if so inspired. With so many specialties, it’s great to find the spectrum of topics covered, oftentimes by practitioners: neo-natal, in-patient (rehabilitation hospitals), skilled nursing facilities, burn units, schools, home health, outpatient, hand therapy, psychiatric and even ergonomics for factories, etc.
There are a ton of high hi-tech investment options, but insurance coverage and family income will be a factor. As technology continues to democratize, there’s hope that costs will drop for everyone. In some cases, it’s possible for patients to be part of the testing process by participating in trials. This may be a great option for some people to allow access that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
One interesting option for patients with visual impairment is utilizing hi-tech glasses. Google Glasses are making strides in bridging the gap between people and technology, but their chief purpose isn’t medically related to its consumer function.
However, the OrCam is a small camera that mounts to the frame of glasses and uses a hardwired connection to a handheld processor which allows a camera to read text at a distance or up-close using gestures that work with operation of a few buttons on the hand-held processor.
“Advances in optical character recognition (OCR), object recognition, artificial intelligence and computer vision has resulted in remarkable, new products to aid individuals with visual impairments,” they share. “The OrCam provides a variety of features allowing OCR and recognition of print and environmental text, product recognition, money recognition as well as facial recognition.
Once recognition is completed, the processor speaks the information aloud using its small speaker located in the device which attaches to the temple of a glasses frame. It’s ease of use, fast processing and accuracy makes this device a functional, electronic scanning/recognition device for many tasks and environments.”
The world is becoming smarter and smarter, in terms of technology applications that add value and comfort. From cars to homes and from schools to shopping centers, the digital age is making its mark. Learning about the latest technologies in addition to using tried and true methods can produce a wholistic benefit for your patient.
There’s no “one way,” so staying aware of what works best for your client and their lifestyle/situation is critical to maximizing the benefit derived from technologies. It’s even possible that you have enough expertise to drive technology changes on behalf of your patients, whether that’s creating an online channel or giving feedback to factories’ design teams.
As an occupational therapist, you have unique insight to what actually helps people. By communicating your ideas, you advocate for not only your patients, but many others. Great technology doesn’t replace essential elements of therapy, but it may add tremendous value to patient lives.
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