What is the Role of an Occupational Therapist Working with People with an Intellectual Disability?

The American Occupational Therapy Association state the people with and ID have ‘’limited cognitive capacities and adaptive behaviours.” Occupational therapists work to help people perform their activities of daily living (ADLs) effectively and with the aim to help promote confidence, self-esteem, self-concept, overall happiness and often independence. As with any other patient population, occupational therapists help play an important role in aiming to promote meaningful engagement in a range of activities in a person-centred manner. Often this can involve engaging with the person themselves, their families, schooling/education systems, workplaces, government and councils and carers.

Depending on the person’s physical, cognitive, communication and sensory requirements, a range of interventions may be worked on with an occupational therapist. As part of any intervention the occupational therapist may also work as part of a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) including GPs, nurses, care staff, physiotherapists, speech and language therapist, teachers, social workers, and dieticians to name but a few. Furthermore, an occupational therapist may work with the person in a variety of settings including their home, schools, day services or community settings, work, respite services or residential services.

According to Justice et al., (2021) – some key areas an occupational therapist may work with this population include.

  • Sensory interventions
  • Seating
  • Equipment provision
  • Adapting environments/ environmental recommendations
  • Use of natural environment
  • Education for the person, family, care staff etc.
  • Adapting activities of daily living
  • Adapting roles and routines
  • Visual arousal monitoring tools

Throughout Ireland, occupational therapists work in network disability teams (NDTs), charities, schools, and community teams with this population. Private occupational therapists may also work with this population. If you are looking for any additional information on what benefits an occupational therapist may have when working with you or someone you know with an ID – contact your local OT and learn more about the services they offer.