The Role of Occupational Therapy in Driving

What is the role of occupational therapy in driving?

Helping clients regain their sense of freedom and independence is at the core of why many of us became Occupational Therapists (OTs). And while there are roles for us across the spectrum of care, there’s one practice area that can be incredibly fulfilling.

Helping clients drive again. 

This can be a game-changer for clients and their families in addition to being rewarding for us. And yet, most Occupational Therapists who want to add an adaptive driving specialty to their practice don’t have a clear path forward.

The growing need for driving rehabilitation specialists within the OT field

In our line of work, it’s common to come across clients who have lost their ability to drive for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Chronic illnesses (e.g., Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease)
  • Strokes, brain injury, or cognitive impairments (e.g., TBI, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias)
  • Accidents or medical interventions that change people’s physical abilities (e.g., limb loss or amputation)
  • Vision conditions (e.g., cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration)

When you combine injury and illness with an aging population, it’s clear there’s a growing need for occupational therapists who can help people learn to drive again using adaptive technology. Having this skill can help you add value to your clients and your healthcare system or practice.

Why adaptive driving training for occupational therapists is important

If your independent practice or healthcare system isn’t offering adaptive driving specialty services, you: 

  • Lose the ability to serve clients in this unique way 
  • Miss an opportunity for business development 
  • Watch as your clients go elsewhere for more specialized services 

That said, adding a new area of specialty can feel overwhelming. Plus, it’s understandable to feel anxious about serving your clients in the best possible ways while minimizing risk to your practice or health care system. 

But there is a way to take advantage of this opportunity without taking on much risk. You can take an Adaptive Driving Training program explicitly designed for Occupational Therapists. 

What to look for in an adaptive driving training program

Many adaptive driving training programs spend too much time talking about the conditions of drivers and not enough time digging deep into OT-specific training and hands-on learning.

After training more than 60 occupational therapists to conduct driving risk assessments and offer other adaptive driving services, our resident expert Susie provides these three tips for finding the best OT-focused program:

  • Tip #1: Ensure the program includes an in-clinic training component that focuses on conducting a driving risk assessment. Missing this essential element can become a liability for your operation. 
  • Tip #2: Find a program that offers a combination of in-class or online learning plus hands-on behind-the-wheel training. This is where you’ll gain experience and confidence working with adaptive equipment and developing client-specific strategies.  
  • Tip #3: Look for a program that includes ongoing mentoring, training, and other resources to help you build or grow your adaptive driving practice.

Help people regain their independence 

Ready to add new value by gaining your adaptive driving certification? Check out our Adaptive Mobility training course or set up a call with Susie to learn more!

Related content: Watch Susie’s Story

Susie Touchinsky

Susie Touchinsky, OTR/L, SCDCM, CDRS is an occupational therapist and certified driver rehabilitation specialist offering decades of experience, knowledge, and professional support for drivers, families, caregivers, and practitioners.