With speech recognition software, they help those with impaired vision to navigate computers with their voice. With biofeedback, they teach patients how to control their responses to stressful situations. And with wheelchair basketball, they show athletes who can no longer run how to stay in the game.
What they’re really showing Soldiers, though, are possibilities, said KJ Doughton.
Doughton is a registered occupational therapist, and a key part of the Warrior Transition Battalion’s physical therapy/occupational therapy/recreational therapy department, who all work in conjunction to increase Soldiers’ physical function on the macro and micro levels, to rehabilitate across a spectrum of domains, and to aid Soldiers in living more independent lives.
“We’re really trying to tie it more holistically together,” said Lou McGranaghan, supervisory physical therapist and interim head of the department which boasts a staff of nine therapists and two administrative support staff.
This means stepping out of traditional physical therapy and occupational therapy roles to embrace goal setting, work site assessments, greater cross-collaboration with medical colleagues and leadership, and more.Add in the recreational therapist to oversee these adaptive sports, and Soldiers also get a variety of alternative physical activities that double as new leisure options.
With most Soldiers here presenting complex challenges, treating the whole person can be tough.
“You’ve got the psychological component, you’ve got multiple issues of the musculoskeletal component, you’ve got the social component most of them are dealing with, and because of that you’ve got the pharmaceutical component… to be able to fit all those parts together is a juggling act,” said McGranaghan.
But the common thread, he said, is that all Soldiers are here to reenter into their previous military career or transition to civilian life.
“To do that they need to be physically active and they need to have a vocation to be successful,” he said.
To help Soldiers make successful career transitions, OT teaches goal-setting classes to define just how to advance towards one’s goals. They also work to ensure that Soldiers’ internships or work plans are therapeutically appropriate, to include providing workplace adaptive aids as needed.
As for physical rehabilitation, the PT section tends to look at the physical domain of rehabilitation and fitness at the marcro level. For example, if a Soldier doesn’t have the use of his arm and has difficulty putting on clothes, PT would work to strengthen the affected muscle groups. OT, on the other hand, is more function-based, so they would refine the Soldier’s ability to dress himself.
All areas of the department work to increase Soldiers’ independence in all areas of life; for sports leisure, for instance, Soldiers work primarily with the recreation therapist.
“Recreational therapy here is for Soldiers to stay in their rehabilitation treatment and to do sports as a way to relax, to enjoy recreation, and to still exercise,” said Kim Drown, a certified recreation therapist.
Benefits of joining in adaptive sports range from physical to cognitive to social.
“The long-term goal is for them to take these skills with them and maybe continue to play in the community,” said Drown.
With new programs such as a lumbar stabilization class, an outpatient psycho-educational class, and the air rifle/air pistol sport, the department is offering more ways for Soldiers to expand their possibilities. Pushing outside one’s comfort zone can open new doors, said Doughton.
“I think there’s a comfort zone, a cocooning, and once that is shed, that transition can be huge,” he said.