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Tim Bielinski, OT, is a certified orthotist who has worked at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He contributed to the following article:
A certified orthotist assesses patients for a functional deficit, and then designs and fits an external supportive device to help the patient overcome the deficit, increasing his or her ability to function.
A certified orthotist will work in a hospital, clinic or private practice with people of all ages and various functional disabilities, from patients with head injuries or cerebral palsy to those with multiple sclerosis or post-polio. Some patients are born with congenital difficulties or are recovering from an automobile accident. Still others are athletes who need custom shoe inserts to support their feet.
An example of treatment may be patients who have suffered a stroke and require an ankle-foot orthotic (AFO) or a knee-ankle-foot orthotic (KAFO), a type of leg brace that stabilizes a limb or limbs to facilitate walking and prevent injury. A person with spinal weakness could require either a thoracic lumbar sacral orthotic (TLSO), better known as a body jacket; or they might need a corset. Someone who is quadriplegic, or who has suffered a head injury, might require extra upper limb stability such as a wrist hand orthotic (WHO).
Recently, a 23-month-old boy with left-side hemiplegia caused from an aneurysm was prescribed an AFO and Mr. Bielinski fitted him for it at the Rehabilitation Institute.
To become an orthotist, one has to complete a post-graduate certified program at a college that has a program specializing in Prosthetics and Orthotics. After that, they must perform a year in residency.
The National Commission on Prosthetics and Orthotics Education (NCOPE) is the governing body that certifies these programs. Colleges with programs in Prosthetics and Orthotics include California State University in Carson, Calif.; Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in Downey, Calif.; Newington Certificate Program in Newington, Conn.; Northwestern University Prosthetic-Orthotic Center in Chicago; Century College in White Bear Lake, Minn.; Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J.; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas; and University of Washington in Seattle.
Each candidate must pass a board exam administered by the American Board of Certification, in Orthotics & Prosthetics, Inc. The professional is then considered ABC certified. Mr. Bielinski went to Northwestern University and he's an ABC certified orthotist.