Date of Paper/Work

5-2018

Type of Paper/Work

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy

Department

Occupational Science/Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Dr. Stephanie de Sam Lazaro

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis was to investigate the use of non-evidence-based practices that are often used with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by occupational therapy practitioners, as well as continuing education necessary to better pediatric occupational therapy practice with children with ASD in Minnesota. This mixed-methods project utilized a website content analysis, survey, and focus group data to address the research questions. The study aimed to address: (1) How do pediatric occupational therapy practitioners in Minnesota understand evidence-based practice and apply evidence-based practice principles in their work with children with ASD? (2) How are the twelve specified interventions being used currently in pediatric occupational therapy practice for children with ASD in Minnesota? and (3) What are the next steps for supporting pediatric occupational therapy practitioners in Minnesota in being evidence- based for working with children with ASD?

Findings from data analysis elucidated common themes and implications for pediatric occupational therapy practice with children with ASD in Minnesota. The first theme is occupational therapy practitioners are relying more on their clinical experience than evidence- based research when working with children with ASD. The second theme is many of these interventions are used to treat children with ASD without fidelity and by practitioners who haven’t been trained in them. Lastly, practitioners reported barriers to applying evidence-based practices, including lack of time, limited resources, affordability, workplace culture, and difficulty assessing evidence-based information. The majority of occupational therapy practitioners participating were school-based practitioners. If occupational therapy wants to continue to perform a relevant service in MN, occupational therapy practitioners must reflect on the evidence base for the interventions they are selecting as well as the extent their intervention choices address occupational participation in children with ASD. Increasing accessibility to continuing education and resources for evidence-based information is needed as well for occupational therapy practitioners working with children with ASD.

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