By Julia Scott, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists

SOMETIMES the smallest change can have the biggest positive impact on a person’s life. For occupational therapists, a key part of their role is providing innovative solutions, big and small, to enable the people they help to live the lives they want.

This week marks Occupational Therapy Week 2019, spearheaded by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists. This year’s theme, Small Change, Big Impact, provides recognition to more than 3,500 occupational therapists across Scotland who work with people of all ages and abilities. Scotland’s occupational therapists are problem solvers who tailor their approach to each person they work with and the profession is growing in its strength and reach. Occupational therapists are not just based in hospitals and rehabilitation centres. They can be found in schools, prisons, care homes, and many other locations, providing invaluable practical support.

The 2019 Small Change, Big Impact campaign will see occupational therapists across Scotland and the UK sharing stories of the small changes they have delivered which have had a big impact on people’s lives. I’m going to be in Scotland for part of the week hearing these stories first hand. Changes which seem so small to us can mean the world to the individual who is struggling.

It is a pleasure to share examples like providing adapted versions of cutlery to allow a young child to more easily feed themselves; or teaching breathing exercises and mindfulness practices to support a young girl to overcome debilitating panic attacks.

Occupational therapists work with adults and children of all ages with a wide range of conditions; including those who have difficulties with their mental health, a physical impairment, or a learning disability.

The unique approach of the profession considers all of the patient’s needs – physical, psychological, social, and environmental. This holistic support can make a real difference in giving people a renewed sense of purpose, opening up new horizons, and changing the way they feel about their future.

Children use occupational therapy to grow, learn, socialise and have fun, and ultimately overcome challenges to reach their fullest potential. For the elderly, services can help maintain a high quality of life – adapting the home or routines to allow individuals to continue daily activities. An occupational therapist can identify the right equipment solutions and develop strategies which will keep them in their own homes.

When asked to describe the work of the profession, many people are likely to identify an occupational therapist as supporting people with physical disabilities, including people who have undergone an amputation or had a stroke. People often require intensive occupational therapy following these episodes to build their confidence and strength to return to living independently and enjoying their favourite hobbies. Combined with an understanding of the home environment, an occupational therapist can help foresee and overcome challenges through providing an oversight of home alterations and specialist equipment. Indeed, colleagues in Glasgow have been supporting people such as Corinne Hutton, the first Scot to receive a double hand transplant, to adapt to changes and new challenges.

Ultimately, occupational therapists help people to live life their own way. Occupational Therapy Week is our moment to celebrate the role of our profession in enabling change and to acknowledge the hard work of occupational therapists across Scotland and the UK.