Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work

Doctoral Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy


Occupational Science/Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

John Fleming


Doctor of Occupational Therapy


The National Longitudinal Transition Study–2 (NLTS–2) reports that 19% of students with disabilities will enter postsecondary education programs. However, The United States Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (2015) reported that 16.8% of individuals with disabilities obtain a bachelor’s degree compared to 34.6% of individuals without a disability (BLS, 2015). Though students with disabilities aspire to continue their education, they are not as successful as their peers without disabilities. They are at risk for health disparities, lower earning potential, and stability in their community (Department of Health and Human Services [HHS], 2020a). Occupational therapy is beginning to play a role in supporting students to achieve the skills needed for positive postsecondary education outcomes. However, the interventions do not discuss their effectiveness using an evidence-based practice approach. The research found that four overarching themes impact positive postsecondary education outcomes: self-determination, disability identity, relationships, and accessibility.

This doctoral project aims to bring awareness to themes impacting intervention, provide interventions by pairing these themes with the American Occupational Therapy Associations (AOTA) Occupational Practice Framework–4th edition, and advocate for our place in supporting transition planning to postsecondary education. The three knowledge translation (KT) projects served to address this purpose. The first KT project served to educate on this topic using a systematic evidence-based practice approach for practitioners and students on this topic.This project was a continuing education webinar sponsored by the Minnesota Occupational Therapy Association (MOTA). The second KT project focused on one of the themes: disability identity and its importance when using a strength-based approach. This project was an article for the Children and Youth Special Interest Section Quarterly Connections. The third KT project served to provide practitioners knowledge and opportunities to identify interventions within the four themes. It also served to provide the foundation for practitioners to successfully advocate for occupational therapy’s role in positive postsecondary education outcomes.

These projects support occupational therapy’s potential to impact positive postsecondary education outcomes. However, students with disabilities who are slated to attend postsecondary education are not the primary focus of transition planning, which puts them at risk for health disparities and lower socioeconomic opportunities. Also, accessibility needs to be broadened in its definition to address occupational therapy’s ability to provide occupational justice to all students. Future research should include the application of these themes outside of an urban school setting and the effectiveness of building a specialized transition team focusing on students with high incidence disabilities.