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Top Five Occupational Therapy TED Talks for Students and Practitioners

Since its start in 1984, TED Talks have been viewed over one billion times and inspired thousands of people. For many, no other medium motivates them like an encouraging TED Talk.

With that being said, it can be daunting to find the right talk. I’m happy to say, in the realm of occupational therapy alone there are at least 25 awesome TED/TEDx Talks done by occupational therapy students and practitioners to choose from (see the link to my full playlist below). To objectively create a top five is an extremely tough task, especially considering I have two of my own, but after some serious consideration I’ve whittled down my top five here. Additionally, I haven’t included my own on this list, for obvious reasons, but if you’re curious I have one on overcoming my own Autism diagnosis and another on preparing for old age.

Without further ado, here’s my countdown of the top five TED/TEDx Talks for the OT community. Enjoy!

5. Carly Rogers at TEDxUCLA

Watch: Surfing- Infinite Possibilities to Heal, Carly Rogers at TEDxUCLA

When I learned about doing my first TEDx Talk in 2015, Carly was the first person I contacted for advice. Friendship aside, this presentation does an awesome job of illustrating occupational therapy’s role in community health with a different population. It also does a good job at looking at different methods of healing. Don’t miss it!

4. Wendy Lindley at TEDxOrangeCoast

Watch: The High Price of Criminalizing Mental Illness, by Wendy Lindley at TEDxOrangeCoast

While Wendy is no longer an occupational therapist, she is now a judge in the criminal justice system advocating for the use of collaborative courts which looks to bring together rehabilitation professionals and judicial supervision to improve the lives of recent offenders. With recent pushes of occupational therapy trying to get back in mental health in the United States, perspectives like this are extremely important to show occupational therapy’s ability in mental health. Watch her talk to learn more.

3. Denise Rotert at TEDxSiouxRiver

Watch: Occupational Therapy: It Isn’t All Work, by Denise Rotert at TEDxSiouxRiver

Despite going to numerous occupational therapy conferences since I started occupational therapy school in 2009, I’ve never had the chance to meet Denise. However, this is arguably one of the oldest TEDx Talks out there on occupational therapy.

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2. Holly Cohen at TED 2016

Watch: Accessible Fart Machines and Hand-Less Video Game Controllers, by Holly Cohen at TED 2016

Similar to Denise, I haven’t had the chance to meet Holly yet. However, I have heard great things about her from my good friend, Kristie Koenig (current department head at NYU occupational therapy department). This talk focuses on why we should hack toys and game systems so all kids can play with them – not just those free of disabilities. Holly preaches that we need to build for what someone can do – not for what they could do. This session also represents an important milestone for the OT community because it was held at the annual, elite TED conference.

1. Helene Polatajko at TEDxToronto

Watch: Mastering a New Skill in a Matter of Hours, by Helene Polatajko at TEDxToronto

Coming in at first, this talk is by a legend in our field. Helene is very well known in Canada, as she plays a major role in developing the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure, a versatile measure that can be used in a variety of settings. She also has a long list of peer-reviewed publications in occupational therapy journals across the globe. Not surprisingly, her talk is now the most watched TED/TEDx Talk in occupational therapy as of today.

There you have it! My top five talks from the OT community. Want more? I’ve compiled my TED playlist here.

Author

Bill Wong, OTD, OTR/L

bwong

Bill Wong is an occupational therapist licensed in California. He currently serves as California Representative Assembly rep #2 in American Occupational Therapy Association. He is the first occupational therapy student or practitioner to appear on TED or TEDx Talk more than once. His first TEDx Talk was titled “Fighting On: Overcoming Autism Diagnosis at TEDxGrandForks”. His second TEDx Talk was titled “Preparing to Age in Place: It Starts Sooner Than We Think” at TEDxYouth@AlamitosBay.

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