Title

Disparities in Occupational Engagement of Children with Special Needs

Presenter Information

Ruth Humphry
Linn Wakeford

Start Time

24-10-2008 2:40 PM

End Time

24-10-2008 3:10 PM

Abstract

The characteristics of groups of children and their families as well as differences in the quality of services contribute to disparities in health and developmental outcomes. This paper explores the nature of developmental differences in how children with special needs learn their occupations. The study builds on the assumption that children are part of an integrated, functional system that supports the development of their occupations. It deepens our understanding of occupation by identifying how the system sometimes fails to function. For example, researchers in education report that children with special needs, in classrooms with typically developing peers, have problems interacting with their peers. This suggests that children already facing developmental challenges miss social opportunities to learn about classroom activities. This can be exacerbated if teachers are not aware of how to modify their behaviors or adaptively create learning opportunities. The authors suggest that due to dysfunction in the system children with different diagnoses may experience a range of disparities in their occupational engagement leading to less than optimal outcomes. To elaborate on the concept this study draws on 6 months of observations of 3 year olds and their teachers in an inclusive classroom. Three children were selected as contrasting case studies. Trustworthiness was addressed through triangulation of similar observations over time as well as the use of photographs and teachers comments as alternative data sources. Field notes and pictures of the children's behavior were analyzed for units of meaningful engagement (or missed opportunities for occupation). The researchers independently identified situations that invoke changes in occupational performance and then collaborated in determining what contributed to positive or less than ideal engagement. The findings include how children engaged in vicarious participation, negotiated interactions around activities, and organized actions to engage during free play-time and teacher led activities. The paper discusses the transactional nature of functional systems that create and shape changes in childhood occupations. Future research will explore how characteristics common to children with autism, Down syndrome or severe motor impairments suggest alternative strategies to enhance the developmental processes and support occupational engagement.

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Oct 24th, 2:40 PM Oct 24th, 3:10 PM

Disparities in Occupational Engagement of Children with Special Needs

The characteristics of groups of children and their families as well as differences in the quality of services contribute to disparities in health and developmental outcomes. This paper explores the nature of developmental differences in how children with special needs learn their occupations. The study builds on the assumption that children are part of an integrated, functional system that supports the development of their occupations. It deepens our understanding of occupation by identifying how the system sometimes fails to function. For example, researchers in education report that children with special needs, in classrooms with typically developing peers, have problems interacting with their peers. This suggests that children already facing developmental challenges miss social opportunities to learn about classroom activities. This can be exacerbated if teachers are not aware of how to modify their behaviors or adaptively create learning opportunities. The authors suggest that due to dysfunction in the system children with different diagnoses may experience a range of disparities in their occupational engagement leading to less than optimal outcomes. To elaborate on the concept this study draws on 6 months of observations of 3 year olds and their teachers in an inclusive classroom. Three children were selected as contrasting case studies. Trustworthiness was addressed through triangulation of similar observations over time as well as the use of photographs and teachers comments as alternative data sources. Field notes and pictures of the children's behavior were analyzed for units of meaningful engagement (or missed opportunities for occupation). The researchers independently identified situations that invoke changes in occupational performance and then collaborated in determining what contributed to positive or less than ideal engagement. The findings include how children engaged in vicarious participation, negotiated interactions around activities, and organized actions to engage during free play-time and teacher led activities. The paper discusses the transactional nature of functional systems that create and shape changes in childhood occupations. Future research will explore how characteristics common to children with autism, Down syndrome or severe motor impairments suggest alternative strategies to enhance the developmental processes and support occupational engagement.