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The Ties of Occupational Therapy & Social Justice Briana MOritzen

Social Justice (n.): justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.

Occupational Justice (n.): the right of every individual to be able to meet basic needs and to have equal opportunities and life chances to reach toward her or his potential but specific to the individual’s engagement in meaningful occupation -American Occupational Therapy Association

Occupational Therapy (n.): the only profession that helps people across the lifespan to reach personal goals using therapeutic and fun activities

"Tattoos on The Heart"- Gregory Boyle: "Pastor Boyle discusses how kinship and the sacredness of life are drawn from twenty years working with gangs in LA. How do you fight despair and learn to meet the world with a loving heart? How do you overcome shame? Stay faithful in spite of failure? No matter where people live or what their circumstances may be, everyone needs boundless, restorative love AND social justice!"

"Laudato Si" -Pope Francis: "the new appeal from Pope Francis addressed to 'every person living on this planet' for an inclusive dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet...calling the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path."

The Movie "Wonder" - Stephen Chbosky: "August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face...[the movie] begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and" social justice.

Catholic Social Teachings: "a central and essential element of our faith. Its roots are in the Hebrew prophets who announced God's special love for the poor and called God's people to a covenant of love and justice. It is a teaching founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ, who came 'to bring glad tidings to the poor . . . liberty to captives . . . recovery of sight to the blind'(Lk 4:18-19)...Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor" to bring about social justice & equality.

Crash Course: What is Occupational Therapy?

The Evaluation Phase: the client and therapist establish a trusting relationship and the therapist uses this stage to better understand who their client is. Established through several approaches: screenings, interviews, observations, and formal assessment procedures.

Occupational Profile: therapist has a clear image of who their client is; client’s age, gender, reasons for referral, diagnosis, developmental level, education, socioeconomic status, cultural background and functional abilities and identify clients’ factors that support or hinder their occupational performance

Occupational performance: their ability to perceive, desire, recall, plan and carry our roles, routines, tasks, and sub-tasks for the purpose of self-maintenance, and demands of the enviro

The Intervention Phase: analysis of the information accumulated from the evaluation phase. 1) Clients’ strengths and deficits are identified by the therapist 2) Clearer understanding of the client's problem 3) Therapist selects the most appropriate approach for treatment (referring to Frame of Reference). Therapist consults and educate their client & their caregiver(s).Frame of Reference: a solution or activity must create/promote change, establish/restore new skills, be maintained beyond therapy, modify hindering contexts, and prevent relapse.

The Outcome Phase: feedback for the therapist. Addresses whether the client’s goals have been met. By determining this, the practitioner (or therapist) makes decisions regarding their future interventions and provides objective feedback for themselves. The therapist measures client satisfaction and quality of life upon discharge.

Confession: Why I Chose Occupational Therapy?

I feel that the professions’ values align with mine. Generally, I find that most professions emphasize too much on self-affluence, even if it means the exploitation of others in the process. Occupational therapy’s values are not like that. Rather, occupational therapy follows a holistic perspective in which the focus is solely on the client and the community. A client is not defined by their disability, but rather as an integral part of the therapy team—as a person or "human"!

I also like the idea of dedicating myself for the rest of my life to helping people. The outcome of helping someone gives me a sense of joy like nothing else compares to. To be that difference in someone's life, perhaps when no one else would have, is a great gift from God that He gives us in order to be "men and women for others." By using my abstract mind and creativity, I can create personalized and fun activities to help promote a client's ability to fulfill their role/goal independently.

Independence is a huge privilege that we are all entitled to. However, sometimes deficits and barriers get in the way--this can be a disability, environmental changes or simply how society perceives us. Under these circumstances, we can empower each other by changing our perceptions, advocating for each other, and making the proper modifications to our community. I believe not only does OT have the power to do this, but everyone has the ability to make this change!

Tying It All Together: Social Justice & OT, "Laudato Si," Catholic Social Teachings, "WONDER," and "Tattoos on the Heart":

Catholic Social Teaching: “at the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace” thus “if you want peace, work for justice” (Pope Paul VI)

Catholic Social Teaching: "calling to family, community and participation” and “rights and responsibilities...the person is not only sacred but also social…[and that] the family is the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened”

Laudato Si: “our moral character presumes full respect for the human person...‘everyone’s talents and involvements are needed’; all of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to [our] own culture, experience, involvement, and talents...which calls us together into universal communion." (Pope Francis)

Laudato Si: “the misuse of creation begins…when we see nothing else but ourselves.” (Benedict)

Tattoos on the Heart: "If there is a fundamental challenge within these stories, it is simply to change our lurking suspicion that some lives matter less than other lives.” (Gregory Boyle)

Tattoos on the Heart: “We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away” (Gregory Boyle)

WONDER: By merely “changing how we see” we can make a substantial difference on how we, as a society, treat others with more equal respect. (Mr. Tushman; Principal)

Conclusion: In the film “Wonder,” Principal Tushman captivates the social justice ideology of the Catholic Social Teaching, the texts from class, and occupational therapy. By merely “changing how we see” we can make a substantial difference on how we, as a society, treat others with more equal respect. Additionally, by making the proper modifications to the environment, as well as our perceptions, we enable people the equal opportunities as others. Pope Francis and Boyle have both demonstrated how social injustice is prevalent in society. Occupational therapy strives to eliminate injustice, providing everyone equal opportunity. It views each person with equal potential, similarly to “Laudato Si” and the Catholic Social Teaching. These texts and the profession of occupational therapy stress the importance for everyone, no matter our occupation, to advocate and treat each other with the same dignity. Rather than jumping to false misconceptions or quick judgements about someone, we must “care for God’s creation…it is a requirement of our faith…that cannot be ignored” (Catholic Charities). By altering our perceptions, being there for one another, and making the proper environmental modifications, social justice for all will be much more of a reality.

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