Title

Interactional Spaces: Families, Cars, and Autism

1

Location

Armory Room

Start Time

30-9-2016 8:30 AM

End Time

30-9-2016 10:00 AM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

Title: Interactional Spaces: Families, Cars, and Autism

Statement of Purpose: Occupational scientists have long acknowledged the importance of context on engagement in occupation, yet little research has foregrounded the physical environment as an interactional space. This is particularly true in studies of family occupation where emphasis has been on describing what families do with little attention to how space contributes to the emergence of family occupation. Expanding on the work of Noy (2009, 2012) and Bonsall (2015), the purpose of this paper is to explore how occupation emerges in and from one space of interaction – the family car. Specifically, we examine the car as an interactional space for families with adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Methods: This paper draws on data from two ethnographic studies. The studies, though different in focus, location, and duration, included interviews about and observations of family occupations and routines. Our approach to data collection and analysis was grounded in a transactional approach to occupation (Cutchin & Dickie, 2012). During observations in the car, we rode unobtrusively along with the families during routine outings. Observations lasted anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes. Following each observation, we wrote detailed fieldnotes. For this paper, we constructed and analyzed two narratives of after-school outings, each including an adolescent with ASD and his mother.

Report of Results: The narratives highlight the car as a place of coordinated social activity, with family occupation influenced by the particularities of each situation. Three main attributes of the car emerged as facilitators of family occupation: the confinement of and physical arrangement of bodies; the divided attentional space of the driver resulting in short sequences of conversation, and the presence of objects as mediators of interaction. These particular attributes supported coordinated activity for the adolescents with ASD and their mothers. The results support Ochs and Solomon’s (2010) algorithm for sociality and highlight the situational conditions supporting the emergence of family occupation.

Implications Related to Occupational Science

The results highlight the importance of physical space, bodily arrangements, attentional space, and objects on the emergence of occupation, particularly for individuals whose potential for social coordination may be somewhat limited. Attention to these contextual factors may have particular implications for families with adolescents with ASD who may benefit from these less direct mechanisms of interaction. Lastly, the results draw attention to the importance of expanding the study of family occupation to contexts outside of the home.

Discussion Questions

1. How do attributes of other contexts where families spend time together support or inhibit the emergence of family occupation?

2. How can physical spaces be altered or modified to enhance opportunities for social interaction for individuals with autism spectrum disorder?

3. What are other attributes of the car that support or inhibit social coordination of activity?

Key Words

Family occupation, space, car

References

Bonsall, A. (2015). Scenes of fathering: The automobile as a place of occupation. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 22(6), 462-469, Doi:10.3109/11038128.2015.1057223

Cutchin, M. & Dickie, V. (2012). Transactionalism: Occupational science and the pragmatic attitude. In G. Whiteford & C. Hocking (eds.). Occupational Science: Society, Inclusion, Participation (pp. 24 – 37). Hoboken, N.J.: Blackwell.

Noy, C. (2009). On driving a car and being a family: A reflexive ethnography. In P. Vannini (ed.), Material Culture and Technology in Everyday Life: Ethnographic Approaches (pp. 101-113). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Noy, C. (2012). Inhabiting the family-car: Children-passengers and parent-drivers on the school run. Semiotica, 191, 309-333. Doi: 10/1515/sem-2012-0065

Ochs, E., & Solomon, O. (2010). Autistic sociality. Ethos, 38(10), 69-92. Doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1352.2009.01082.x

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Sep 30th, 8:30 AM Sep 30th, 10:00 AM

Interactional Spaces: Families, Cars, and Autism

Armory Room

Title: Interactional Spaces: Families, Cars, and Autism

Statement of Purpose: Occupational scientists have long acknowledged the importance of context on engagement in occupation, yet little research has foregrounded the physical environment as an interactional space. This is particularly true in studies of family occupation where emphasis has been on describing what families do with little attention to how space contributes to the emergence of family occupation. Expanding on the work of Noy (2009, 2012) and Bonsall (2015), the purpose of this paper is to explore how occupation emerges in and from one space of interaction – the family car. Specifically, we examine the car as an interactional space for families with adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Methods: This paper draws on data from two ethnographic studies. The studies, though different in focus, location, and duration, included interviews about and observations of family occupations and routines. Our approach to data collection and analysis was grounded in a transactional approach to occupation (Cutchin & Dickie, 2012). During observations in the car, we rode unobtrusively along with the families during routine outings. Observations lasted anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes. Following each observation, we wrote detailed fieldnotes. For this paper, we constructed and analyzed two narratives of after-school outings, each including an adolescent with ASD and his mother.

Report of Results: The narratives highlight the car as a place of coordinated social activity, with family occupation influenced by the particularities of each situation. Three main attributes of the car emerged as facilitators of family occupation: the confinement of and physical arrangement of bodies; the divided attentional space of the driver resulting in short sequences of conversation, and the presence of objects as mediators of interaction. These particular attributes supported coordinated activity for the adolescents with ASD and their mothers. The results support Ochs and Solomon’s (2010) algorithm for sociality and highlight the situational conditions supporting the emergence of family occupation.

Implications Related to Occupational Science

The results highlight the importance of physical space, bodily arrangements, attentional space, and objects on the emergence of occupation, particularly for individuals whose potential for social coordination may be somewhat limited. Attention to these contextual factors may have particular implications for families with adolescents with ASD who may benefit from these less direct mechanisms of interaction. Lastly, the results draw attention to the importance of expanding the study of family occupation to contexts outside of the home.

Discussion Questions

1. How do attributes of other contexts where families spend time together support or inhibit the emergence of family occupation?

2. How can physical spaces be altered or modified to enhance opportunities for social interaction for individuals with autism spectrum disorder?

3. What are other attributes of the car that support or inhibit social coordination of activity?

Key Words

Family occupation, space, car