Exploring the Occupational Therapy Consultation Process Related to Students with ASD Attending A Regular Classroom
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This study explored the occupational therapy consultation process for students on the autistic spectrum attending their regular, local school. Grounded theory, a qualitative research methodology, was used to gather and analyse information to answer the research questions. The purpose of grounded theory is to gain understanding about social processes, in this case the social process taking place as part of occupational therapy consultation in an inclusive education context. Semi-structured interviews were employed to gather data from eight experienced school-based occupational therapists. This study developed a high-level description and conceptual ordering as an initial step towards developing a consultation model. The consultation process described, using occupational therapists’ day to day experience, is grounded within the inclusive education setting in Aotearoa/ New Zealand. Constant comparative analysis of the data revealed three interactive and interdependent processes: Joining Up, Finding A Way and Walking and Talking. These processes often occur simultaneously and have significant influence on each other. A central category or overarching theme has been identified, Working Together, which highlights the collaborative nature of the consultation process. A number of important themes emerged regarding the school environment as a complex practice context, highlighting the variability between different schools and classrooms. A strong ecological approach surfaced as an essential aspect of therapists’ practice. Additionally, the therapists’ interactive reasoning process and the problem solving approach were explored. The study deepened the understanding of reframing as a tool frequently used by consulting therapists within an inclusive education context. This research is significant as the results and key themes have the potential to inform occupational therapy practice within the educational setting and direct attention towards areas requiring further research. Consideration needs to be given to the induction of therapists into this particular field of practice as well as to the specific professional development and support needs of school-based occupational therapists working within a consultative model of service delivery.
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