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Research Article  |   March 1991
The Able Self: Adaptive Patterns and Choices in Independent Living for a Person With Cerebral Palsy
Author Affiliations
  • Margaret McCuaig, MA, OT(C), is Instructor and Acting Division Head, Occupational Therapy Division, School of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of British Columbia, T106, Third Floor, ACU, 2211 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 2B5
  • Gelya Frank, PHD, is Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Southern California, 2250 Alcazar, CSA 203, Los Angeles, California 90033
Article Information
Neurologic Conditions / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Research
Research Article   |   March 1991
The Able Self: Adaptive Patterns and Choices in Independent Living for a Person With Cerebral Palsy
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March 1991, Vol. 45, 224-234. doi:10.5014/ajot.45.3.224
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March 1991, Vol. 45, 224-234. doi:10.5014/ajot.45.3.224
Abstract

An ethnographic approach was used to study adaptation to independent living of a 53-year-old woman with cerebral palsy in a West Coast Canadian city. The subject’s adaptation through her use of technology (including augmentative communication systems and a powered wheelchair), activity routines, and social supports was documented with the life history method. Short-term accommodations to disruption or breakdown of stable adaptations were observed through participant observation. The criterion of function alone was found insufficient to account for the subject’s choice of adaptive techniques, routines, and social supports. Adaptive choices appeared to depend on the subject’s desire to be perceived as able, especially as mentally competent, to the greatest extent possible. The way field experiences may be used to challenge professionals’ assumptions, in this case, concerning disability and treatment, is modeled for future ethnographic research in occupational therapy.