The role of the occupational therapist in facilitating the occupational adaptation of regular educators in inclusive classrooms
Inclusion is an issue that has been moving to the forefront in public education over the course of the past ten years. Despite this prevailing philosophy, actual implementation in the classroom has been wrought with difficulties. This series of studies was conceptualized to develop an effective intervention strategy for occupational therapists to use to provide support services for students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. Unique in this series of studies is the identification of the regular education teacher as the recipient of the occupational therapy services. This intervention was based in the theory of occupational adaptation which discusses the occupational challenge presented by the person-environment interaction and the need for internalization of adaptive responses in order to achieve relative mastery. Part I utilized interview data obtained from regular educators, students with disabilities, and the students' parents, to describe the occupational environment and the occupational challenge as they experienced it. An intervention strategy was proposed based on those descriptions and put in place for Part II and Part III. The intervention, based in occupational adaptation, was framed by the work of Giangreco, Cloninger and Iverson (1993) on collaborative consultation and participant observation. The focus of the intervention was the regular education teacher with outcomes reflected in the adaptation response of the teacher as well as the positive outcomes of the student with disabilities. Data sources for Part II and Part III included quarterly interviews with the parent and teachers; quarterly participant observation of the student in both structured and unstructured environments during the school day; and monthly collaborative consultation sessions with the teachers. The aim of Part II was to obtain evidence of occupational adaptation occurring within the teacher that might be observed in the teacher-student interactions. Results indicated that the proposed model of collaborative consultation and participant observation was effective in supporting positive relative mastery for the teacher, fostering partnerships with the parents, and promoting the student's educational and social development. Part III focused on the internalization and generalization of the adaptation response in novel ways or novel situations. Areas in which adaptation was demonstrated included communication, modifications, and advocacy.