Our Research

Student sitting in electric wheel chair learning controls

Research at the School of Occupational Therapy

Our research focuses on improving the everyday lives of individuals through adaptation and occupational participation. We search for ways to solve problems and better outcomes for people with disabling conditions and barriers to participation.

Occupation and adaptation

Occupation and adaptation are explored within the context of the lives of individuals, groups and populations. We focus empirical study on the impact of occupation and adaptation on assessment, intervention and outcomes of health and wellbeing.  

Applied reasoning

Occupational therapy improves function through intentional and deliberate reasoning that draws upon thought processes, science, persons and tools. We explore functionality in the classroom, clinic and community and examine the global outreach of Occupational Therapy to improve quality of life across populations.

Technology applications

Technology advances classroom instruction, communication and daily living. Through systematic examination with populations in context, we are changing the way we understand and apply technology.

Current research highlights

Facilitating access to cultural and community venues

Tina Fletcher, Ph.D. emphasizes the impact of art on clients and caregivers receiving occupational therapy, and on improving participation in cultural arts and entertainment venues for visitors with special needs. Using sensory strategies and curriculum development to achieve these goals, she is guided by the belief that participation in the creative process—whether experienced through art-making or by being in cultural arts and entertainment venues—has a direct impact on a person’s well-being and quality of life. Community partners include: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Zoo, and Dallas Children’s Theater.

Applying theory to enhance practice

Patricia Bowyer, Ph D. focuses on the application of an occupation theory in practice, specifically the Model of Human Occupation (MOHO), to impact clinical reasoning of practitioners and service provision outcomes, including the development of assessments and interventions based MOHO. (Collaborators: MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Illinois-Chicago)

Cynthia Evetts, Ph.D. addresses occupation and adaptation through the therapeutic use of creative media as a holistic intervention in occupational therapy practice. This includes crafts and games in addition to creative ways to tap into motivating elements from the occupation profiles of clients. She co-authored a text book titled Mindful Crafts as Therapy: Engaging More than Hands, which offers theory, tools and activities for using mindful crafts during occupational therapy for patients. (Collaborator: Suzanne Peloquin, PhD, FAOTA)

Facilitating participation by improving function

Asha Vas, Ph.D. uses top-down approaches of cognition assessment, training and remediation to strengthen higher-order cognition in adult students (e.g. graduate school), and remediate executive function deficits in adults caused by traumatic brain injury and stroke. She explores the theoretical and neural underpinnings of the interplay between cognitive functioning and daily life skill performance including optimal participation in home, social and vocational activities. (Collaborator: Sandra Chapman, PhD, University of Texas at Dallas – Center for Brain Health.)

Theresa Smith, Ph.D. addresses adaptation to low vision caused by a range of conditions, including age-related macular degeneration. She works to improve low vision services through studying low vision rehabilitation assessment and outcomes and through the development, validation and responsiveness of the Low Vision Independence Measure (LVIM). (Collaborator: UT-Medical Branch)

Promoting safety and access in the home and community

Noralyn Pickens, Ph.D. and Suzanne Burns, Ph.D. are working on a National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research-funded project: “Development of a Multi-faceted Software Evaluation for Home Reintegration: There’s an App for That?” They are creating a new technology-based assessment and documentation system called HESTIA, which will provide an in-depth multi-faceted assessment to identify problems in the home environment that hamper a person’s ability to successfully live as independently as possible. The long-term goal of this project is to get a user-friendly, thorough-yet-efficient home environment assessment smartphone application in the hands of therapists. (Collaborators: Roger O. Smith, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, R2D2 Center); Rochelle Mendonca, PhD, of Temple University)

Improving the lives of caregivers and families

Gail Poskey, Ph.D. focuses on prevention of Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma (SBS/AHT) and the environment of the NICU. Her research agenda has three related aims:  1) Prevention of abusive head trauma, 2) Exploring the complexities of fatherhood, and 3) Examining the occupations and co-occupations of preterm infants (and caregivers) and the environment of the NICU.

Leon Washington, Ph.D. explores the caregivers’ perspective, lived experiences, occupational adaptation, occupational challenges and contextual factors that impact caring for a child with a disability. He examines the challenges caregivers face and stressors associated with these challenges such as caregiver burden, caregiver strain, poverty, limited education, financial strain and social isolation and how these issues may lead to abuse and neglect of a child with a disability.

Page last updated 2:58 PM, June 12, 2018