As members of the occupational therapy community, we all LOVE mentions of OT in the media. Especially positive ones. Here are a few (hundred).

But sometimes <sigh> OT is portrayed inaccurately. Or called physical therapy. Or even left out of the story entirely.

The inaccuracies can be blood-boiling but the omissions can be equally frustrating. So what are we to do? We keep at it…

Alicia Kremer’s Feb. 8 letter to the editor in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is an excellent example of explaining OT and why it should have been included. In this case, the Post-Dispatch ran a Feb. 2 article on a 12-year-old boy recovering from an accident that nearly claimed his fingers. The story repeatedly references physical therapy but not hand therapy or OT.

Here is an excerpt from Kremer’s LTE: “After a complex hand surgery, physicians refer patients to a hand therapist. Of the certified hand therapists in the United States, approximately 85 percent of them are occupational therapists and 15 percent are physical therapists. The hand therapist will fabricate a custom hand orthotic, instruct the patient and family in proper wound care techniques, and eventually introduce hand exercises to maximize hand function. The overall goal of therapy after such an injury is to optimize wound healing, range of motion of the hand and fingers, and strength in order for the patient to return to activities that are fulfilling and meaningful to them.”

She further makes the case for OT by identifying the patient’s ADLs.

She continues: “According to the article, playing football, wrestling with his two dogs and playing video games are a few occupations that Devin values. However, basic daily activities like feeding and grooming oneself are of immediate concern for the occupational therapist. Performance of these desired activities are the primary goal of hand therapy.” Click here to read the full letter.

The result? The Post-Dispatch added a link to Kremer’s letter on the same page as the original article. (Awesome!) Click here to read the original article and see the LTE link.

Kremer’s efforts are a success in my book. Here are some tips to create a LTE that will catch the eye of editors:

• Craft a punchy headline. Be truthful, but get creative!

• Be brief and to the point. A long letter and a short letter may both grab readers’ attention, however, the shorter one is more likely to be read in full.

• Remember your audience. Do not use jargon that the general public will not understand. Be sure to explain your message simply.

• Relate your message to recent news. Letters that are in direct response to a previous article or letter are more likely to be published. Be sure to cite the article’s title and publication date in your submission so the editor knows exactly what you are talking about.

• Include your name. Only under extreme circumstances are anonymous letters published. Be sure to include your full name and city of residence for publication.

• Send your letter via e-mail (unless otherwise specified). If an editorial assistant does not have to retype it, this could mean a quicker turnaround.

• Provide your contact information. Most newspapers will not print submissions without first verifying that you are an actual human being. Be sure to leave both a phone number and e-mail address so that the editor can verify the letter, discuss edits, and ask questions, if any. Be sure to check the newspaper’s guidelines – some have more specific requirements.

Additionally, I have developed a template letter to help get you started. If you are interested in seeing it or getting some help crafting a response, contact me at kriley@aota.org.