Courses that prepare individuals for a career as an occupational therapy aide are available as associate's degree programs. Most two-year occupational therapy assistant programs require some form of fieldwork or internship experience and adhere to the guidelines of the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Although aides do not need licensure or certification, aspiring occupational therapy assistants need to get certified as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).
Students in an occupational therapy assistant associate's degree program usually need to complete some prerequisite courses in topics that might include anatomy and physiology, psychology, medical terminology, English and math. After understanding the basics of the OT field, students learn about the types of assistive technologies available to help patients and get some hands-on practice working with devices. The second year of an associate's program in occupational therapy assisting includes significant field experience, although this experience may start even in the first year of the program.
Here are some common concepts found in occupational therapy courses:
- Human anatomy
- Lab activities
- Clinical work
- Growth and development
- Mental health
List of Classes
Introductory Occupational Therapy Course
Students in this course are introduced the duties of occupational therapist aides, who work under the supervision of occupational therapists to help patients overcome physical challenges that are affecting life and work. Emphasis is generally placed on interaction with patients and observational skills. The course typically includes a terminology review, activity analyses, frames of reference for care and ethics. Instructors may briefly touch on occupational therapy history and theory.
Patient Assessment Course
After taking an introductory class, students focus on specific skills like patient assessment. In this course, students learn how to assess movement, perception, cognition, sensory input and affective systems. Additional topics of instruction may include kinesiology, work-related assessments, various treatment approaches and the basics of group dynamics. Range of motion (ROM), pivot points, extension and hyperextension, joints, posture and manual muscle testing (MMT) may be explored. Students may take this class after learning the basics of occupational therapy.
Assistive Technology Course
Assistive technology, another specialty area of occupational therapy, includes ergonomics and adaptive devices. Students learn how assistive technology can be used to improve workplace safety. Many assistive technology courses include hands-on workshops or externships that introduce aspiring occupational therapy aides to practical uses of assistive technology. Instruction in designing, modifying or fabricating special physical assistive devices for disabled clients may be examined.
Physical and Psychosocial Dysfunctions Course
In a physical and psychosocial dysfunctions course, students explore symptomology, etiology, contraindications and medical, physical and psychosocial dysfunctions related to occupational therapy. Students may also review medical terminology related to dysfunctions. This course also covers infection control measures, psychiatric illnesses and client safety measures.
Geriatric and Pediatric Occupational Therapy Course
This course examines an occupational therapy aide's role in the care of pediatric and geriatric patients. Students learn about age-related diseases. Patient handling techniques are explored for all age groups; students also learn proper evaluation, documentation and treatment measures.