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Occupational Therapy Week

Occupational Therapy Week

Have you ever thought of all the things you do in a day and what would happen if you couldn’t? This is the question Occupational Therapists are getting the public to think about during “Occupational Therapy Week”, which runs from the 30th October to the 4th of November 2006.

Occupational Therapists around the country plan to let their community know about their role in helping people, young and old, who are experiencing any kind of disability or disadvantage.

“The focus of the week will be to encourage people to think about “doing” and the impact of “not doing”, explains Ellen Nicholson, council member of the New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapists (NZAOT).

Mrs Nicholson and the NZAOT Council have been working with “Outside the Square”, a student-led Public Relations company at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), to co-ordinate three national activities across the week.

NZAOT wants to draw attention to what occupational therapists can do, and celebrate the profession in New Zealand. The week will include a national balloon release on Monday 30 October, a breakfast on Wednesday 01 November, and constructing a “Wall of Occupations” on Friday 04 November. Occupational therapists in each region are responsible for coordinating their local events.

“It’s tricky describing the role of an occupational therapist in just a few words. We work in a diverse range of settings with people from a range of backgrounds who are experiencing a different issues which limit their everyday experiences”, says Mrs Nicholson.

In 2004 just over half of occupational therapists were employed by government funded District Health Boards (DHBs) while the remainder work in private practice, schools/education, non-government organisations, community organisations, or tertiary education providers.

But Mrs Nicholson says despite this range of settings, there is a common ground for the work of all occupational therapists. “It’s the focus on doing”, she says. “Our role is to find out what’s important to our clients and their families and find ways to overcome the barriers they’re facing”.

This may include providing a client with a piece of equipment to assist with bathing, accessing appropriate University supports, educating friends, employers, or teachers, teaching specific skills, or lobbying for policy changes. “The possibilities are endless” Mrs Nicholson says.

Occupational therapists are tertiary education trained, via the two occupational therapy schools in New Zealand - AUT and Otago Polytechnic. Occupational therapists are also registered with the Occupational Therapy Board of New Zealand (OTBNZ) who is responsible for ensuring all practicing occupational therapists are competent to practice. NZAOT is a voluntary association which provides services, support, representation and networking opportunities for occupational therapists and has members across all occupational therapy practice areas within New Zealand and abroad.

For more information, or to find out what’s happening in your area, please check out the NZAOT website ( or contact Ellen Nicholson 027…..


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