How Do Speech and Occupational Therapy Differ?

People interested in patient care usually compare speech and occupational therapy. And indeed, both these carriers fall under the group of rehabilitation therapy which may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. All the professionals from these fields work together to care for and treat the patients whose lives have been affected by illness, injury, and disability.

So, those who have an interest in pursuing a career in rehabilitation therapy often find difficulty in choosing which path to choose i.e. speech and occupational therapy. That’s because the duties of these professionals overlap sometimes and also the practitioners often cooperate. So, it can be quite difficult for you to choose the right career. To make things more clearly for you, we have written the difference between speech and occupational therapy.

Speech therapy

Speech therapists or speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are specialists in diagnosing, treating, and preventing communication and swallowing disorders. The aim of the therapist is to improve the patient’s ability to swallow and communicate by using therapeutic approaches.   

About 40% of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work in an educational environment at the private, local, and state levels. They also work in hospitals, nursing, private practices, and residential care facilities. 

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapists (OTs) are specialists in diagnosing and treating illnesses, injuries, or disabilities that affect the ability of a patient to complete daily activities by using therapeutic techniques. This therapist treats a wide range of patients in several settings. 

Most occupational therapists work at local and state levels, in private hospitals, and also in private practice offices. They also work in secondary and elementary schools at the state, nursing care facilities, home healthcare services, and local and private levels.

While the approaches both these professionals take overlap sometimes. Now, look at the distinguishing factor between speech and occupational therapy.

Role and responsibility of speech therapy

Speech therapists focus narrowly on treating conditions that affect the patient’s language, speech, and swallowing abilities. So, the common task performed by a speech-language pathologist may include the following:

  • Evaluating a patient’s language, speech, and swallowing ability
  • Designing individualized treatment plans and executing them to address the need of a patient
  • Assessing and documenting the progress of a patient
  • Educating caregivers and patients on the techniques to manage swallowing and communication disorders

Role and responsibility of occupational therapy

Occupational therapists focus on treating patients from head to toe. So, the following are the common roles and responsibilities offered by an occupational therapist. 

  • Evaluating the condition of a patient and their specific needs
  • Setting a realistic goal and designing treatment plans to improve the ability of a patient to live independently
  • Documenting and assessing the progress of a patient
  • Adapting and evaluating patient environment to ease daily activities and allow independence
  • In addition, educating caregivers and patients on the use of care techniques and special equipment 

However, an occupational therapist (OT) can choose any specialist they want to pursue. So, the role and responsibilities of each OT may vary according to which focus they choose to specialize in. For example, American Occupational Therapy Association offers services in:

  • Mental health
  • Gerontology
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Pediatrics
  • Environmental modification
  • Driving and community mobility
  • Schools system
  • Eating, feeding, swallowing, and low vision

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