Objective. Although the prevalence of children with pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) has increased, empirical data about the role and practices of occupational therapists have not been reported in the literature. This descriptive study investigated the practice of occupational therapists with children with PDD.
Method. A survey was mailed to 500 occupational therapists in the Sensory Integration Special Interest Section or School System Special Interest Section of the American Occupational Therapy Association in eastern and midwestern United States. The valid return rate was 58% (292 respondents). The survey used Likert scale items to measure frequency of performance problems observed in children with PDD, performance areas addressed in intervention, perceived improvement in performance, and frequency of use of and competency in intervention approaches.
Results. The respondents primarily worked in schools and reported that in the past 5 years they had served an increasing number of children with PDD. Most respondents provided direct services and appeared to use holistic approaches in which they addressed multiple performance domains. They applied sensory integration and environmental modification approaches most frequently and believed that they were most competent in using these approaches. Respondents who reported more frequent use of and more competence in sensory integration approaches perceived more improvement in children’s sensory processing. Respondents who reported more frequent use of and more competence in child-centered play perceived more improvement in children’s sensory integration and play skills.