10 Creative OTA Therapy Ideas to Improve Skills and Function

Staff Writer
Apr 20, 2022

Occupational therapy assistants are tasked with helping people go about their lives in the world as independently as possible. When an OTA provides therapy, it’s targeted toward activities of daily living. What sorts of activities do people do every day, you ask? The motions of getting dressed, the mental steps involved in cooking dinner, navigating a conversation….These, and millions more, are the activities of daily living.

Occupational therapy assistants have a large purview and quite a few choices when it comes to choosing an exercise. We’ve found a few favorites to improve skills and function, but you can definitely get creative while you’re at it!

Different activities are appropriate for different ages and backgrounds; most of these activities can be adapted for the many different patients an OTA will work with, including the following:

  • Adult rehabilitation
  • Pediatrics
  • Hand therapy
  • Ergonomics
  • Vision rehabilitation
  • Community consultation
  • Driver rehabilitation
  • Assisted living care

Gamify OTA activities

Games, crafts, and role-playing are great activities for kids, and there’s a lot of room for variation and creativity.
1. Pictionary or charades games: Patients will use fine motor skills to draw or act out things.

2. Collages: A collage can be created individually or in groups, using almost any topic. It’s great for family therapy; family members can identify strengths and commonalities.

3. Role-play communication: Role-playing encourage patients to use communication to deal with a situation, perhaps with humor or assertiveness. This is a great way to get patients using “I statements.”

Adapt existing tools

Of course, occupational therapy isn’t just about activities. It’s about adaption and evolving to fit changes. If a patient is struggling, the best solution might be to “hack” the environment rather than asking the patient to adapt. Here are a few great ways to adapt household objects for geriatrics and other patients:

4. Soap in a stocking: Put a bar of soap in a long stocking, and tie it around the shower bar. if you use the soap through the stocking, the soap will be easy to find, easy to grab, and won’t slip out of your grip.

5. Pool noodle card holderStyrofoam pool noodles are an OTA’s best friend. Cut a “slice” of the noodle, add a parallel slit, and viola! Play Gin Rummy with no hands!

6. Sponge or foam tubes: Foam tubes can be wrapped around silverware or toothbrush handles, making eating or hygiene tasks simpler.

7. Tennis ball paint brush: Everyone needs art! Stick a paintbrush through a tennis ball. Gripping a large, soft ball is much easier than gripping a slender, slippery stick.

8. Play with loops for dressing skills: A stretchy, twisty sock can be hard to put on. Instead, put on loops of bracelets, plastic necklaces, Mardi Gras beads, or infinity scarves to practice the motion.

Appeal to all the senses

Another large part of occupational therapy is teaching coordination and strength, and that may involve stimulating muscle sets and teaching body awareness.

9. Use vibration to teach lip closure: In one example, a child with Angelman syndrome didn’t close her lips and couldn’t control drooling. A simple touch of an oral motor tool gave her enough body awareness to close her lips.

10. Suck up animal crackers with colored straws: This activity builds oral motor musculature, requires precision and concentration, and offers immediate sensory feedback.

At Joyce, we’re proud of our occupational therapy assisting program. Learn how you can receive an associate’s degree and become an Occupational Therapy Assistant in just 20 months with our accelerated program.

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