When conducting an evaluation, in my case either an occupational therapy or assistive technology evaluation, is the quality of the referral important? In my opinion, absolutely!
Occupational therapy [and assistive technology] cover a huge array of skills in an infinite number of areas. When conducting a school-based evaluation, it is prudent to know what the student’s difficulties are. For example, if a student is unable to take notes, I would explore a variety of skills in detail [visual tracking, handwriting, orientation to sound, etc.]. I would need to know that the student is having difficulty in this area and this is an area that the school would like to address. I would also need to know what the student thinks: Is writing notes the problem or is something else. Students need to provide feedback during an evaluation. Their feedback provides insight to strengths and limitations that professionals might not see.
If I were evaluating a senior citizen, I would need to know what current and future living situations are being discussed and what the expectations of the patient and possibly the family might be. For example, does the patient and or the family expect that this patient will cook or shop independently? Although I would surely conduct a global assessment of this patient’s skills, I would definitely expand and focus on the skills that the patient is expected to be able to do. In the case of cooking and shopping, my evaluation would focus on handling utensils, navigating the kitchen, energy conservation and safety, including fall prevention, both in the kitchen and out in the community, the patient’s ability to follow written and verbal directions, generating a shopping list, etc.
The referral asks the questions that the patient and his or her family need answers to. Having a referral focuses the evaluation on the client, the student, the patient. It shows the person being evaluated that his or her needs are important and valued. This helps develop a rapport with the client that can support the therapeutic process so that the client has a vested interest in participating in therapy.
So, in addition to the diagnosis, the client needs to learn what an occupational therapist does and what he or she can assist with prior to the evaluation. My next blog will cover “Just What Does and Occupational Therapist do?”