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Occupational Therapy: Living Life to Its Fullest

 Occupational Therapy Assistant programNational American University is excited to now offer students the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at the Centennial, Colo.  and Independence, Mo. locations.  The new associate degree program provides students with skills needed for this growing career. The demand for occupational therapy (OT) services is on the rise, and new clinicians are needed to fill the demand.  The job market continues to flourish for this career, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for OTA practitioners will grow by 43%, or “much faster than average” between 2010 and 2020[1]. The country’s aging population, increased longevity, focus on health promotion and prevention, and evolving work schedules are some of the issues that will continue to increase the need for OT services.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy empowers people who may have an injury, illness, or disability to live life to its fullest by showing them how to make lifestyle changes, environmental changes, or adaptations in order to participate in daily life activities. OT practitioners work with people of all ages to teach them how to do everyday tasks that they want and need to do through the use of therapeutic occupation.  Occupation refers to the activities that people do in their day-to-day lives that occupy their time. Under the supervision of an OT, OTAs use meaningful activities to develop and improve clients’ cognitive, sensory, motor, and social skills to promote health and enhance participation in activities. OTAs participate in the delivery of services including assessment, intervention planning and implementation, documentation, and review of client progress.

As the profession looks forward to its 100th anniversary in 2017, the American Occupational Therapy Association identified six predominant areas of practice:

  • Children and youth
  • Health and wellness
  • Mental health
  • Productive aging
  • Rehabilitation, disability, and participation
  • Work and industry[2]

Consequently, OT practitioners commonly work in a variety of settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, community settings, schools, and higher education.


Woman helping childNAU’s occupational therapy assistant program provides students with a strong foundation in the theory and nature of occupation, the dynamic interaction of clients and their environments, and hands-on skills.  The program’s “practice courses” emphasize the six topic areas listed above, and these courses include lecture, laboratory, discussion, and opportunities for live demonstrations and practical applications.  Throughout the program, a wide range of fieldwork experiences are offered, which take place offsite at both traditional and nontraditional settings.  NAU’s 24 month-long program offers a blended curricular format, whereby students take some courses online, some on-campus, and some in combined online/on-campus format.

“Our program prepares students with the knowledge and “hands-on” skills necessary to sit for the certification exam and become successful OTA practitioners,” said Lynne Clarke, OTD, OTR/L and OTA Program Coordinator at National American University-Independence.  “Our faculty has a warm and caring approach, and we are able to give our students individual attention due to our small class sizes.”

National American University offers a wide array of on-ground and online allied health degrees. Learn more about our undergraduate degree programs.

For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program and other important information, please visit our website

Contributed by Lynne Clarke, OTA Program Coordinator at NAU-Independence and Deborah Mandel, OTA Program Coordinator at NAU- Centennial

Published January 2013

[1]Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (April, 2012). 2012-2013Occupational Outlook: Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides. Retrieved from

[2]American Occupational Therapy Association. (2012). Practice Areas: Occupational Therapy Practice Areas in the 21st Century. Retrieved from


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