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Issue Date: May/June 2021
Published Online: March 29, 2021
Updated: April 26, 2021
Shifting Focus From Impairment to Inclusion: Expanding Occupational Therapy for Neurodivergent Students to Address School Environments
Author Affiliations
  • Yu-Lun Chen, MS, OTR, is PhD Candidate, Department of Occupational Therapy, New York University, New York; yulun.chen@nyu.edu
  • Kristie Patten, PhD, OT/L, FAOTA, is Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, and Vice Dean, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, New York.
Article Information
Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / School-Based Practice / Columns: The Issue Is . . .
Other   |   March 29, 2021
Shifting Focus From Impairment to Inclusion: Expanding Occupational Therapy for Neurodivergent Students to Address School Environments
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March 2021, Vol. 75, 7503347010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.040618
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March 2021, Vol. 75, 7503347010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.040618
Abstract

Social participation in schools is critical to student academic and psychosocial outcomes. Neurodivergent students, however, often experience environmental barriers to social participation, such as lack of awareness and negative attitudes among peers and school staff, including teachers. Although authentic social participation is composed of dynamic interactions between a person and the external environments, occupational therapy’s role in addressing student social participation primarily focuses on internal social characteristics. Barriers within school environments often remain unaddressed, with no clear role for occupational therapy practitioners. We advocate an expansion of occupational therapy’s role to address school environments, especially the social, physical, and policy aspects, to promote social participation and inclusion. We also discuss the need for change and present a framework guiding intervention in school environments.