Activity Analysis

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Oh, the activity analysis.  If you’re an OT practitioner you know exactly what we’re talking about.  If you’re not, let us enlighten you with this blog post. Occupational therapy and activity analysis go hand in hand and the process of breaking down a functional task into components and underlying factors is a skill that is developed long before the graduation cap and gown are donned by the OT practitioner! Let’s cover this very skilled concept so that analyzing activities is a breeze to grasp.

Activity Analysis

Let’s break down what activity analysis means. We can separate this term into two components (therefore completing an analysis of the very topic).

  1. First, an activity analysis is a process of breaking an activity down into its individual steps and its detailed subparts while examining all of its components with each activity being evaluated skillfully to determine its therapeutic value. Occupational therapy providers complete an activity analysis as part of evaluations, but also during and within every OT intervention and therapy session.

2. Second, the process of analyzing an activity in therapy is a highly involved process and requires the occupational therapy practitioner to be skilled in the analysis of all activities for their potential therapeutic value for every client. 

The analysis allows OT practitioners to consider the person (meaningfulness and motivation), task (along with supports or adaptations), and environment (the place the activity is occurring) to accurately address the barriers of a given activity and essentially gives us a path to follow when addressing the skills, demands, and access.

Another term for activity analysis is task analysis. Whether you’re analyzing a functional activity or a functional task, the important thing is breaking down the components of a functional skill (getting dressed, catching a ball, completing a specific exercise, sweeping with a broom, etc.) into all of the cognitive, motor, sensory, emotional, etc. components.

What does this mean?

Each activity and task is looked at with a critical OT eye, analyzed, and then determined if it is an appropriate activity or task for each client. Then the OT practitioner, who is skilled in implementing the task or activity, provides an ongoing analysis of the client’s reaction and performance and determines if changes need to be made to increase the therapeutic value or benefit.

So, if you see an OT practitioner playing toss and catch with a kiddo just know that the practitioner is targeting a plethora of skill areas and could be very different for each child. 

What does an Occupational Therapy Activity Analysis Look At?

So, what exactly is looked at in this process? Well, let’s say A LOT. There are many different formats for activity analysis and the therapist chooses the format and intervention approaches based on what they hope to elicit from each client.

Overall, each analysis should touch on the various activity components, any areas of occupation, client factors, activity demands, performance skills and patterns, and contexts and environments.

How to do an Activity Analysis

With this post, we will show you the basic format of such analysis to help you see the larger to smaller components of the process. At the end of the post, we will provide you links to sites that provide examples of activity and task analysis and other resources to help you gain an even better picture of the process and to facilitate your work as an OT practitioner.

The basic analysis components are detailed, but relevant to many activities utilized during therapy sessions.

Although it is time-consuming, most experienced OT practitioners can do an initial mental analysis with ongoing analysis throughout the session. This is important to be able to do but to get back to the roots of what makes our profession unique, the true activity analysis includes a slow, detailed approach to ensure factors are not missed and each component is considered carefully. 

Activity Analysis

The general factors for an activity analysis are:

  • activity name and description
  • supplies and space needed with any noted special considerations
  • any preparation work that is needed
  • determine the relationship the activity has with a major life occupation and/or role
  • age and gender appropriateness
  • make note of any special precautions that may be necessary
  • adaptation and grading consideration

The time factors for an activity analysis are:

  • activity length
  • number of major steps
  • length of time and number of sessions needed for each stage of the activity
  • determine if there is any potential for delays in the process
  • determine if the sequence of the stages in the activity is fixed or can be flexible
  • note if the speed of the activity is fixed or can be flexible

The sensory factors for an activity analysis are:

  • visual input or need for discrimination such as color or texture
  • auditory input or need for discrimination such as sounds or language
  • tactile input or need for discrimination such as temperature or texture
  • olfactory input or need for discrimination of different smells
  • gustatory input or need for discrimination of different tastes
  • proprioceptive input as necessary for positioning and movement
  • vestibular input as necessary for positioning and movement 
  • any pain considerations

The perceptual factors of an activity analysis include:

The position factors of an activity analysis include:

  • determining how the activity is usually performed 
  • consider all positioning needs of the activity to include the client, the activity, the tools, and materials
  • determine what is the most comfortable and most functional position
  • is it a bilateral or unilateral activity
  • consider if any standing or sitting balance is needed 
  • can the activity can be completed while lying down if needed

The motor aspects of an activity analysis include:

  • determine if the activity is primarily gross or fine motor and explain
  • list all types of movement needed and the repetition of each
  • identify any resistance to these movements and specify which
  • identify all fine motor or manual skills that are needed to complete the activity

Physical Considerations in an Activity Analysis

Here is a list of some of the physical aspects to consider:

Cognitive Components of an Activity Analysis

The cognitive aspects of an activity analysis include:

  • determine the different steps involved and if the directions are simple or complex and explain
  • level of comprehension needed
  • determine if any memory skills are needed
  • determine how much concentration and attention is needed
  • level of arousal needed
  • recognition skills needed
  • what cognitive motor skills are necessary
  • are any problem-solving skills needed and explain
  • are any time management skills needed
  • any other executive functioning skills required
  • sequencing skills needed

Social and Emotional Skills in an Activity Analysis

The social and interpersonal aspects of the activity analysis include:

  • determine if there are opportunities to learn from others, cooperate with others, compete with others, and/or socialize with others
  • determine if there are opportunities for self-expression
  • is it a dependent or independent activity
  • can the activity be adapted to promote or encourage more group relatedness

The emotional and psychological aspects of an activity analysis include:

  • determine if coping skills and frustration tolerance are needed
  • determine if any emotional control is necessary
  • does the activity provide for the expression of cultural values and interests, different feelings, and/or needs
  • does the activity provide for control of feelings
  • does the activity build trust
  • does it build independence
  • does it allow for creativity or is it a replication of a model

The summary of the activity analysis includes:

  • Describe what function the activity serves in daily life occupations and/or role performance
  • Note any therapeutic benefits the activity addresses
  • Note anything note previously mentioned, but needs to be stated

Now you can see the scrutiny that each activity and task can go through to be used for therapeutic intervention.  There are many tasks and activities out there with some being of more therapeutic value than others. The activity analysis is vital to the OT profession and we all need to make sure we give this process the time it deserves to ensure our services are of the most benefit to our clients. 

Activity Analysis Example

One way to better understand the task analysis process as a tool and a means to improve functional performance of skills is through an activity analysis occupational therapy example. This blog post covers a task analysis of the task of creating a wooden birdhouse. An activity like working with wood to create a craft can support development of goal areas.

Using an activity analysis example of a functional task can help further your understanding of the analysis process needed for therapeutic value in all settings.

Below are a few resources that can facilitate your journey and advance your therapy services, as an OT practitioner. They will help guide you in your efforts for determining the appropriateness of an activity or task for individual clients in particular settings. 

Regina Allen

Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!

Activity analysis

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