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Research Article  |   January 2003
Using Participant Observation to Study the Meaning of Occupations of Young Children With Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities
Author Affiliations
  • Susan L. Spitzer, PhD, OTR, is Director, Autism and Adaptive Learning Programs, Children’s Services Center, Casa Colina Centers for Rehabilitation, 255 E. Bonita Avenue, PO Box 6001, Pomona, California 91769-6001; drspitzer@earthlink.net
Article Information
Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Special Section: Qualitative Research
Research Article   |   January 2003
Using Participant Observation to Study the Meaning of Occupations of Young Children With Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, January/February 2003, Vol. 57, 66-76. doi:10.5014/ajot.57.1.66
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, January/February 2003, Vol. 57, 66-76. doi:10.5014/ajot.57.1.66
Abstract

Understanding the individual meaning of daily activities for children with developmental disabilities such as autism is both important and challenging for researchers and practitioners. Rigorous participant observation offers a method for developing this knowledge base by including the child’s perspective. Through literature and examples from an ethnography of young children with autism, this article illustrates the application of participant observation to children with developmental disabilities. Specific strategies can promote valid interpretations despite developmental, linguistic, and perceptual differences between adult researchers and child participants.