reading time: 10 minutes  tags: functional

You do WHAT? Time after time clients ask this question of me... it's not that they don't value the services I provide them with, it's just that nobody has taken the time to distinguish between the hundreds of therapies and related services they are receieving.

Consider this cheat sheet as a way to quickly reference the general scope of practice outlined in each type of therapy. Allow it to infuse your curiosity, and motivate your next move. Also, don't hesitate to reach out if you have more detailed questions. 

Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT)

Main Focus: VISION 

VRT is aimed at increasing your independence and safety while performing your Activities of Daily Living (cleaning, cooking, reading, writing, medication management, etc.). They provide adapted equipment recommendations, technology instruction and perform environmental assessments to ensure that your living arrangements support your residual functional vision. 

Your Success

Defined by an overall improvement in your independence and safety with ADLs, Advocacy, Self-Education, Technology, Self-Care and Quality of Life

Occupational Therapy (OT)

Main Focus: FUNCTION

OT can have many objectives, but when it comes to vision loss, and OT typically enters the picture if the client requires specific adaptations relevant to their medical state or disability. That means an OT usually works in collaboration with a VRT and PT to determine the best approach to adapting meal preparation activities, dressing activities, etc. for an amputee, a person with chronic pain, wheelchair-using clients, (not excluding any additional medical complications not listed here) etc.  

Your Success

Defined by the mastery of the technique or skill set up in the initial assessment. This could be independently and safely using a support cane, or preparing a sandwich on your own using an adapted cutting board with a corner guard. 

Physical Therapy (PT)

Main Focus: MOVEMENT

PT focuses on restoring functionality and reducing pain for clients. With regards to vision loss, a PT may be necessary in the same way an OT is, to work as a part of the interdisciplinary team to promote independence and safety while keying into their speciality in biomechanics.

Your Success

Reducing pain or ensuring that you have the right support devices to help you ambulate throughout your home and beyond. Goals are typically set up in tandem with an O&M Specialist to ensure that your vision needs are incorporated into the PT goals. 

Speech Therapy (SLP)

Main Focus: LANGUAGE

SLP is aimed at restoring expressive and receptive language. Especially with clients who have experienced a stroke, the role of the SLP is indispensable. 

Your Success

Reflected in the goals set by your SLP during the initial assessment, your success will be defined by the marked progress in your verbal and communication skills.  

Vision Therapy

Main Focus: VISUAL SKILLS

Vision Therapy is performed in your medical eye doctor's clinic, and is specifically adapted to your visual needs. The focus is on improving the processing of your vision, so this could include training in the use of prism lenses, or patching exercises when necessary. 

Your Success

Increased visual efficiency and improved visual comfort are two of the expected outcomes of vision therapy. It may also improve your fundamental vision skills such as convergence, tracking and fixation. 

Social Work

Main Focus: SOCIAL JUSTICE

Social Workers operate in concrete service deliverables as well talk-therapy counselors or support group facilitators. You may have one to help you receive important social services such as Meals on Wheels or assist you in enrolling in Medicaid or Medicare. 

Your Success

This will be determined again, by the goals initially set during the assessment (another indicator of why it's important to understand the assessment and what goals are set). It could be anything from getting your housing applications completed to helping you reach acceptance in your stages of grieving

Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M)

Main Focus: TRAVEL SKILLS

O&M will provide you will safe instruction in learning to walk with a human guide, or a long cane. They can expose you to technology that will help you plan routes, teach you to use public transportation, as well as connect you with paratransit services in your area that provide on-demand car service. 

Your Success

Often times, O&M success is determined by you being able to get from point A to point B independently and safely. That may be traveling from your bedroom to the front door, or across the state. What matters is that you have the tools to locate yourself in space, and intentionally travel in the direction you plan. 

Psychological Therapies

Main Focus: MENTAL HEALTH

Counseling, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, along with many other types of psychological or "TALK" therapies are critical in helping you along your vision loss journey. They provide you with the space to process your vision loss, along with goal mapping to get you on the road to acceptance. 

Your Success

Self-realization and self-awareness are both important successful outcomes in psychological therapies. Often times you'll find relief in confiding in someone who isn't a natural support that functions as a more "objective" figure to hear your thoughts. An increased quality of life is also a successful outcome. 


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