Occupational adaptation and relationship to narrative in memoirs of adults with acquired disability

Hamilton, Toby Ballou
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The first purpose of the research presented in this dissertation was to determine the nature of narratives, especially those of people with chronic illness and disability and their significance to the practice of occupational therapy. The second and third purposes were to devise and apply a method to determine if the constructs of the Occupational Adaptation frame of reference (Schkade & Schultz, 1992; Schultz & Schkade, 1992, 1997) were present in the memoirs of adults who had acquired disability. The final purpose was to develop theory about the relationship of Occupational Adaptation and narrative. Such questions are best answered by narrative analysis, a subset of qualitative research methods. The data studied were three memoirs written by adults with disabilities that they acquired during adulthood: Oliver Sacks' A Leg to Stand On (1984), Nancy Mairs' Waist-High in the World: A Life among the Nondisabled (1996), and Robert McCrum's My Year Off: Recovering Life after a Stroke (1998). I interpreted the data by testing for the constructs of Occupational Adaptation and through emergent themes. I have confidence that the studies are trustworthy. The findings support the presence of Occupational Adaptation as a naturally occurring phenomenon in these memoirs. I found a direct relationship in which Occupational Adaptation preceded change in the narrative form. The findings suggest future research questions. I conclude the dissertation with the significance of narrative in general to Occupational Adaptation and to the practice of occupational therapy.

Health and environmental sciences, Disability, Memoirs, Narrative, Occupational adaptation