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Participation Matters

A word that constantly pops up in occupational therapy literature is "participation..." Participation in daily occupations, participation in a role, participation in society.

Participation is something that many people take for granted. I think it's helpful to unpack what lack of participation can look like:

  1. A child with ADHD and Asperger's syndrome is teased by classmates and is made to feel like they don't matter.

  2. A person experiencing depression who desperately needs to leave their home for human connection but is too afraid of what is on the other side of the door.

  3. A mother and her children lacking transport to a safe playground (or any playground) so that her children can play outside.

All of these are examples from people that I know or have met. People are separated from participation and as a result they lose opportunities to be seen, to be known, to nurture their health and wellness, and to be loved. I care about participation because people I have known and loved have suffered, and people in the margins that I know of or have met briefly have suffered even more, in ways that I am only beginning to imagine and see. As an occupational therapist I care about participation because participation in occupations is how we fully live into our humanity. When people cannot do that, we are losing them. We are losing each other. We are losing ourselves.

I care about participation in occupation because acknowledging its importance and where people cannot participate is the beginning of making change- change that will lead to more justice, well-being, and more chances for all of us to live, grow, and love each other.

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