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Life Cycle of an OTA: Working With Children and Seniors


OTAs work with all generations. Pediatric and geriatric OTAs care for very different clients, but some things are always the same.

Being an occupational therapy assistant means you’ll work with a variety of clients and diagnoses. OTAs encounter people who are surmounting all kinds of challenges, learning all kinds of skills, and adapting to their environments in all kinds of ways. The field also spans generations, with specialized OTAs working with the very young and very old. Here’s a brief overview of what it means to work with different generations as an OTA.

Related resource: A Day in the Life of an Occupational Therapy Assistant

Pediatric occupational therapy

Children born with developmental delays or chronic conditions are the most common beneficiaries of pediatric occupational therapy, but pediatric OTAs also see clients who need to regain skills after traumatic injuries. Pediatric occupational therapy (OT) is mostly focused on gaining the skills children would be learning anyway, such as how to put on their clothing or brush their teeth. While these skills are basic, children who do not acquire them in a timely manner can often fall behind compared to their peers. Pediatric OTAs help close that gap and also help children develop cognitive and social skills with treatment that can often resemble play. Hopefully, for these children, OT is just a step on the way to independence, where they’ll be able to function on their own for years to come.

Related resource: What You Need to Know About Pediatric Occupational Therapy Assistants

Geriatric occupational therapy

Occupational therapy is a varied field. Geriatric OT presents a very different experience from working with children. Geriatric OTAs often work in care centers or assisted living facilities, and their clients will be focused on maintaining (rather than gaining) independence and regaining skills they might have lost. Geriatric OTAs are far more likely to work with clients who require their services because of injuries or illnesses, as opposed to conditions they gain at birth. Also of note, working with adults means therapy will probably not resemble play. Geriatric OTAs can often spend a great deal of time customizing a personal environment, such as a home, tailored to their client’s needs.

Related resource: How to Make a Difference: OTA Edition

Common ground between young and old

Whether you’re working with the very young or the very old, there are some similarities. Both pediatric and geriatric OTAs have to personalize care for their clients and show attention to daily tasks — the tasks many others take for granted. Whether your client is seven or 70, you’ll still have to show the same attention, empathy, and compassion as you guide them through daily living activities. Some things transcend generations.

For more information about Ameritech’s OTA program, check out our free e-book, “7 Fast Facts About Our OTA Program,” and keep in touch with the Ameritech community on Facebook.