Friday, April 1, 2011

OT A to Z: A is for Adaptation

I just learned about the A to Z Blogging Challenge in April. For this challenge, bloggers will post everyday in April (except for Sundays) for a total of 26 posts - one for each letter of the alphabet. Thanks to Kirsty Stanley for promoting this challenge!

And since April is Occupational Therapy Month in the US, it seems fitting to focus the posts around things related to OT!! So to kick things off...A is Adaptation.

The concept of adaptation is deeply rooted in the development of occupational therapy. Adolph Meyer described psychiatric illnesses as largely "problems of adaptation" and could be improved through occupation and temporal rhythms. Adaptation is defined as "a change in response approach that the client makes when encountering an occupational challenge" (AOTA, 2008, p. 662). Schulz and Schkade (1997) also describe how adaptation can happen at the level of the individual, groups, or communities. Here are are a few questions for us to consider:

  • So how do we as OTs understand and facilitate adaptation?

  • Since OT is surely not the only profession to consider adaptation, how do our views of adaptation differ from those in psychology or other health professions?

  • Is adaptation a process or an outcome - or both?

  • How does adaptation differ among clients and in different cultures?
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2008).Occupational therapy framework: Domain and process(2nd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62,625–683.
Schultz, S., & Schkade, J. (1997). Adaptation. In C.Christiansen & M. C. Baum (Eds.), Occupationaltherapy: Enabling function and well-being. Thorofare, NJ: Slack.


  1. I think it's so cool that you're using this challenge to talk about something most of us know nothing about.

    Glad you're participating!

  2. remarkable A word.
    thanks for sharing.

  3. Well done Bridget, like Karen said it's great that you are posting about OT. I will talk about some OT related issues in some of my posts but not the difficult letters.
    In terms of your questions.
    I think there are huge links between the first and the last one and that sometimes we underestimate the importance of a client's cultural background.
    How do we differ? I think through our focus on doing, so rather than just talking through how someone might change their mindset showing them how to do it practically in their everyday occupations.
    Probably both a process and in some cases an outcome. But mostly process and sometimes not enough time is spent on the process which is where the desired outcome may not be achieved. And of course adaptation of the individual is not always possible or needed, sometimes we need to change societal attitudes.

    Hope that waffle all made sense.


  4. Thanks for the comments!

    Karen - Occupational therapy is a wonderful profession of which I am so proud to be a part! Hopefully these blog posts can let others know about some of the concepts, tools, and history that are part of the domain of OT!

    Jingle - Yes - adaptation is a fascinating concept that has always been a part of our history. There are many aspects of adaptation to consider in OT. Since we work with people who are often adjusting to significant changes in their lives and functioning, the ability to adapt or the ability to adapt something to facilitate the person's function and occupational performance and often significant aspects of intervention.

    Kirsty - I agree - I think cultural aspects of adaptation are probably often underestimated. And I think OT's focus on activity (the other A word I considered today) and occupational performance is our unique contribution. Like you, I think I have thought of adaptation as a process. Either the process of a person adapting to changing circumstance (adjustment to a different level of function) or the process of adapting an activity or the environment to support a person's occupational performance. So it was interesting when I looked at adaptation in the OT Practice Framework where adaptation seems to be described as an outcome. I do like your point about that sometime the adaptation needs to occur at a level other than individual - such as the societal level.