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Assessing Personal Meaning in the Occupations of Children with ASD

presented by Susan Spitzer, PhD, OTR/L

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Satisfactory completion requirements: All disciplines must complete learning assessments to be awarded credit, no minimum score required unless otherwise specified within the course.

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How can we assess what is personally meaningful for a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) if the child prefers to engage in atypical activities? Can dropping dirt or tapping toys be meaningful? This course will explore what essential factors constitute an occupation for children with ASD as well as the clinical reasoning process for assessing a range of often uncommon, unconventional, and nonverbal occupations. Cases will illustrate how to determine individualized occupations through child-specific activity analysis and how to systematically explore their meaning. Assessing personal meaning in occupations is a critical piece of client-centered care. This strength-based approach is the foundation for engaging a child's motivation and self-direction for therapeutic intervention.

Meet Your Instructor

Susan Spitzer, PhD, OTR/L

Susan Spitzer is a licensed occupational therapist, author, and lecturer with expertise in sensory integration, play, and autism spectrum disorders. She has operated her own private practice clinic in Pasadena, CA for 15 years. Her highly creative and individualized approach continues to energize her practice after 20 years of experience. Previously, she directed a hospital…

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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1. The Challenge and Opportunity of Addressing Meaningful Occupations for Children with ASD

Client-centered occupational therapy strives to focus on what is important and meaningful to the client and what the client both needs and wants to do. Children with autism often have limited interests, are uninterested in activities they need to do, and prefer unconventional themes and uncommon forms of play. The importance of integrating these elements for effective and strength-based practice is discussed.

2. What is Meaningful Occupation for Children with ASD?

Understanding meaning is challenging but essential for addressing occupations for children with an ASD. This chapter will present research on meaningful activities for children with ASD and a framework for identifying occupation in a way that accounts for unconventional, nonverbal activities as well as conventional ones.

3. Determining an Individual Occupation for a Child with ASD

Keen observation and critical analysis of activities the child enjoys as well as what the child resists can reveal the factors that are personally meaningful and motivating. This chapter will use case examples to guide the practitioner through a highly tailored, child-specific activity analysis and the related clinical reasoning for identifying individually meaningful occupations. The result is an enhanced and refined occupational profile.

4. Interpreting Intention & Meaning in Occupations

The therapist must consider unique client factors and intentionality in relation to the activities to determine the critical aspects of occupations and to interpret their personal meaning. Case examples will illustrate the clinical reasoning used to interpret individualized meaning for preferred activities of children with autism.

5. Question and Answer

This chapter will present a question and answer session with a recent graduate of Occupational Therapy.

6. Conclusion

This refined and specialized assessment of occupational meaning in children with autism is essential for client-centered practice. This analysis provides a foundation for infusing intervention with meaning.

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