ASSOCIATION OF OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS OF IRELAND, Annual Conference

by Oonagh Magner, Daughters of Charity Services, St Vincent’s Centre, Lisnagry, Limerick

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The Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland held their 2002 Annual Conference, ‘Bridging the gaps’, on 1–3 March at the Nuremore Hotel, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan. The theme of the conference was cooperating to provide seamless services that meet the real and varied needs of clients. Over one hundred OTs, including 19 OT students, attended the conference. There were 17 paper presentations and ten workshops.

One of the workshops concerned ‘The role of the occupational therapist in housing adaptations for people with physical disabilities’—a role which could also be applied to OTs working in the field of intellectual disability, as many clients will have a secondary physical or sensory need. While stating the importance of the NRB guidelines Buildings for everyone, it was noted that consideration must also be given to individual needs and to ways in which existing structures such as bathrooms can be adapted or customised to meet client needs. The workshop looked at the role of the OT, the skill-base and the training required to assist in the process of making recommendations for housing design/adaptation, in order to enhance individuals’ (and families’) quality of life and to give optimal function and well-being.

Another workshop, on child and adolescent mental health, looked at the development of 25 multidisciplinary teams in Ireland. The model of service delivery presented is in operation in the Lucena Clinic (Orwell Road, Dublin 6) and includes aspects of case management, medical referral and team assessment. While the majority of children and adolescents seen are from mainstream schools, the conditions experienced by the individuals included ADD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, attachment disorders, autism spectrum, developmental delay and rare conditions such as Retts Syndrome. Specific programme are devised by the team to benefit the individual and support is available for families and siblings.

The role of the OT is 1) to look at the individual holistically, 2) to contribute their unique perspective to the overall diagnosis and treatment plan, and 3) to explore the level of function in the context in which the child or adolescent presents. The model of service delivery could be adapted to suit Early Intervention Services in an intellectual disability setting.

One particularly interesting paper presentation summarised the National Children’s Strategy Our children: Their lives. The vision of the document is ‘an Ireland where children are respected as young citizens with a valued contribution to make and a voice of their own; where all children are cherished and supported by family and the wider society; where they enjoy a fulfilling childhood and realise their potential.’

This is the first time an attempt has been made to draw together policies and measures from many different departments to form a coherent strategy for future action. The Minister for Children and the National Children’s Office will carry out a communications programme on the implementation of the strategy; they are to advise the UN of progress being made through a report issued every five years.

Constitutional rights for all children are provided for in the Irish Constitution, Articles 40 (personal rights), 41 (family), 42 (education), 43 (private property), and 44 (religion). Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 23) ‘children with physical disability or learning difficulties have the right to special care, education and training designed to help them to achieve the greatest possible self-…… and to lead a full and active life in society.’

A large equipment exhibition took place on the Friday, giving the occupational therapists an opportunity to see the latest designs of wheelchairs, beds, hoists, bathroom and showering equipment, stair lifts and much more.

As well as being an educational weekend, the conference provided an opportunity for many OTs to meet and renew friendships in what is, as yet, a small but multifaceted profession.

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