Occupational therapy services for people with autism spectrums disorders: Current state of play, use of evidence and future learning priorities

Published October 2013


Background A dramatic increase in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders and increased funding to support children with autism spectrum disorders have added to the demand for occupational therapy services. This study explored current practices and future learning priorities of Queensland occupational therapists who work in this field. Method A survey in relation to occupational therapy services for people with autism spectrum disorders was distributed to all registered Queensland occupational therapists (N = 2547). The development of the survey was informed by a series of focus groups comprising occupational therapy clinicians, supervisors and academics. The survey covered demographics, caseload composition, collaboration, context/setting, service-delivery models, information gathering, goal setting, interventions, perceived challenges and confidence, use of evidence, and experience of professional development and support, and future learning priorities. Results Of 818 surveys returned, 235 respondents provided services to clients with autism spectrum disorders, with young children being more likely to receive a service than adolescents or adults. A pervasive focus on sensory processing was apparent in relation to assessment, intervention, and key areas of knowledge. Around half the respondents indicated that they lacked confidence at least some of the time. Autism spectrum disorders-specific experience was a significant predictor of confidence. Many therapists reported challenges in finding useful information in the literature and reliance on conferences or workshops as their main source of evidence. Commonly identified learning priorities included new developments in the field, early intervention, school support, sensory processing and clinical reasoning. Conclusion This research highlights the need for comprehensive autism spectrum disorders-specific, face-to-face training focusing on evidence-based and occupation-centred practices.
Ashburner, J., Rodger, S., Ziviani, J., Jones, J. (2014) Occupational Therapy Services for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Current State of Play, use of Evidence and Future Learning Priorities. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal.

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