The meaning of spirituality in the lives and adaptation processes of individuals with disabilities




Schulz, Emily K.

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These three studies explored the meaning of spirituality as described in the literature, examined the meaning of spirituality in the lives of individuals with disabilities, explored the evolution of spirituality across their lifetimes, and investigated how spirituality relates to their adaptation processes. The first study was a literature review to determine the nature and meaning of spirituality from the viewpoint of health professionals and individuals with disabilities. From this literature review a definition of spirituality for occupational therapy was proposed: Experiencing a meaningful connection to our core selves, other humans, the world, and/or a greater power, as expressed through our reflections, narratives, and actions. The same qualitative methodology was used for the second and third studies. Six adults with childhood onset disabilities, and 6 adults with adult onset disabilities, 3 males and 3 females in each group, were interviewed individually. Participants also completed a demographic information sheet. Open, axial, and selective coding was done on data to generate themes. The findings of the second study indicated that participants with childhood onset disabilities hold different meanings for spirituality than those with adult onset disabilities. Themes regarding the meaning of spirituality for participants with childhood onset emphasized reflections and a connection to a Higher Power. Themes regarding the meaning of spirituality for participants with adult onset stressed a connection to the self through feelings and expressing that connection through actions. Themes from both groups described a spiritual evolutionary process with several possible levels that indicated a gradual increase in spiritual connection over time: Active Disconnection, Lack of Interest or Understanding, A Structured Religious Upbringing, Breaking Free, A Search For Answers, A New Path, and Spiritual Deepening. The findings of the third study indicated that for these participants adaptation is a struggle. Adaptive challenges included family and health issues. Strategies for adaptation included: A Pause Before Adapting, Connecting to Adapt, Learning New Ways of Doing, Taking Action, and Acceptance of Limitation. The findings of the studies were examined relative to the Occupational Adaptation frame of reference. A three-dimensional model of spirituality was offered to guide use of spirituality in practice and future research.



Rehabilitation, Therapy, Religion, Psychology, Spirituality, Disabled people, Physical therapy