Jeryl Benson

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2010


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Education Leaders (IDPEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Sarah Peterson

Committee Member

Carol Parke

Committee Member

Diane Williams


intervention, occupation, occupational language, occupation-based models, pediatrics, school-based occupational therapy practice


The purpose of this study was to explore the role of occupation in school-based occupational therapy practice. The research questions were 1. How do school-based occupational therapists describe the role of occupation during intervention? 2. Which theories of occupation do school-based occupational therapists associate with their own practice? 3. How is occupational language represented in the Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) written by school-based occupational therapists? Participants included 16 occupational therapists currently practicing in the schools. Data were collected via an interview with the participants and the collection of Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) written by the participants. The methodology used in this study was a mixed qualitative design based on multiple case study analysis and grounded theory. The participant interviews were analyzed for themes and the IEP documents were analyzed using a priori codes based on the Framework-II (AOTA, 2008). The results indicate that occupation is a strong influence during the intervention process as well as the overall daily practice of the school-based practitioner. The data from this study indicate that school-based occupational therapists are not utilizing formal occupation-based models during daily practice. In regards to documentation, the narrative IEP reports present both occupational needs as well as performance skills baseline data when describing the child and determining needs. The long term goals equally represented both occupation focused goals and performance skill based goals. The language used to write the students' present education level reflected the language used to write the goals. This indicates that the terminology used to describe a person, whether occupation or performance focused, drives the focus of the goals. Even with the availability of the Framework II (AOTA, 2008) school-based occupational therapists are not consistently using occupational language in documentation. The results show that school-based occupational therapists are not using occupation-based models to guide practice and are only using occupational language in school-based documentation about half of the time. A discussion related to the importance of current occupational therapy practice based on theoretical models is presented. Occupational therapy practice based on theoretical models results in more effective intervention and contributes to the credibility of the profession. School-based occupational therapists have unique professional needs and will benefit from professional support to understand the contribution of theoretical models to both daily practice and the profession.