A NATIONAL SURVEY OF OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS: AN ASSESSMENT OF CURRENT PRACTICE, ATTITUDES, AND TRAINING NEEDS REGARDING THE TRANSITION PROCESS FOR STUDENTS WITH SEVERE DISABILITIES
Doctor of Philosophy
Fred P. Orelove
Because occupational therapy involvement in transition planning is a relatively new area. little was known about the characteristics of school-based therapists who serve students in this age group. The purpose of this study was to determine their current level of participation in the transition process, the roles that therapists identiﬁed for themselves in this process, their attitudes towards best practices for serving students ages 14 - 22, and occupational therapists’ future training needs if they are to participate fully in the national transition initiative. A survey was mailed to 1,000 therapists on the American Occupational Therapy Associations Direct Mail List for School-Based Practice. A total of 755 surveys were returned representing a 76% return rate.
The results of this dissertation indicate that occupational therapists are minimally involved in the national transition initiative for students ages 14 - 22. Four hundred and sixty-ﬁve therapists (61.6 percent) indicated that they did not provide services to transition-age students during the 1993-94 school year. Of the 290 respondents who reported that they served these students. the majority indicated that their caseloads consisted primarily of students under 13 years of age. In addition, therapists reported minimal involvement in community-based instruction activities (e.g., evaluating students’ needs in community sites, analyzing or modifying community jobs for students’ paid employment, providing occupational therapy services for daily living tasks in community environments). Finally, occupational therapists reported that they do not fully participate in the transition team process. However, the ﬁndings from this dissertation seem to indicate that occupational therapists’ inability to attend team meetings. failure to discuss and develop students’ goals in collaborative teams, limited time to train other team members, and failure to participate in community-based instruction, in some instances, may be beyond the control of the individual therapists. Speciﬁcally, therapists expressed very supportive and positive attitudes toward many best practices for transition.
Statistically signiﬁcant ﬁndings also were found between therapists’ attitudes towards best practices for transition and several work-related variables for school-based practice. Occupational therapists who indicated that they spent the majority of their time teaching other team members to integrate occupational therapy techniques into students’ daily activities expressed more positive attitudes toward transition best practices. Therapists who spend the majority of their workdays in therapy rooms expressed less positive attitudes toward best practices. Therapists who indicated that they had low numbers of transition-age students on their caseloads also expressed less positive attitudes toward transition best practices. Therapists who reported being a member of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps or having read journal articles from this association expressed more positive attitudes toward transition best practices. Other variables such as educational background, length of employment in schools, length of employment in other areas of practice, and employment relationship did not have a signiﬁcant relationship with therapists’ attitudes toward best practices for transition. The results of this dissertation provide important information for university personnel, the American
Occupational Therapy Association and school administrators for facilitating occupational therapists’ involvement in the transition process.
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