Social participation perspectives on the lived experience of adolescents who have visual impairments
Social participation, the interweaving of occupations to support desired engagement in community and family activities as well as those involving peers and friends (Gillen& Boyt Schell, 2014, p. 607), is identified as an important occupation within the domain of occupational therapy (AOTA, 2014). Social participation includes engagement at the community, family, and peer levels. However, little information is available in occupational therapy literature regarding social participation issues of adolescents with visual impairment. This dissertation study explores the perceptions of adolescent with visual impairment and their parents regarding their experiences of social participation. The Children s Assessment of Participation and Enjoyment and the Preferences for Activities of Children were used to compare the social activity patterns of five adolescents who have visual impairments with five typically sighted adolescents. The assessments were administered in interview format. Five visually impaired teens perceptions of their social participation experiences and their meaning were explored through semi-structured in-depth interviews. Three parents of teen participants shared their perceptions of their own and their children s social participation experiences through semi-structured in-depth interviews. Case-by-case analysis and cross-case analysis assisted in identifying emerging themes: protection versus freedom, concern about social participation, and barriers and supports to social participation. Sub- themes within barriers were identified as lack of access to information and mobility. Sub-themes of supports were identified as vision-related specialized services and importance of team activities. Implications for occupational therapy include the need to develop a knowledge and evidence base for intervention in the area of social participation for adolescents who have visual impairments. In order to address the challenges to social participation described by the participants, more research is needed. Questions remaining to be answered include: How can occupational therapists support social participation of adolescents who have visual impairments? How can occupational therapists contribute to effective community mobility of adolescents who have visual impairments? How can occupational therapists support and collaborate with other professionals who address the needs of adolescents with visual impairments? Additional research is needed to ensure the efficacy of interventions that might be used.