Abstract

Occupational therapists who work with young children routinely evaluate self-care and consider it an important domain of practice. Little is known about what children perceive is important self-care or what they experience as self-care within a school context. Without knowledge about children’s perspectives of self-care, occupational therapists cannot know whether or not they are targeting areas that are central to children’s needs. The purpose of this naturalistic study was to explore 6-year-old children’s perceptions of self-care in their school day. Participant observation and group interviewing were used to elicit descriptive information from 24 Grade One children, attending an elementary school located in Sydney, Australia. A fishing game, drawing activity, and excerpts from a videotape of their day at school were used as stimuli to explore how the children described and attributed meaning to their self-care occupations. Findings showed that children described self-care at school two ways. First, they named specific self-care tasks that mirrored adult views of self-care and represented culturally shared views of the concept of self-care across ages. Second, children described highly individual views about self-care that were derived from their own experience of doing self-care at school. These views seemed to be based on their personal perceptions of salient factors in operation at the time of self-care performance such as social and physical contexts, perceived skill, and expectations of others. The findings suggest that occupational therapy assessment and intervention for self-care include sensitivity to experiential differences between adult views of self-care and those of children. This sensitivity should include an attempt to understand children’s experiences of self-care in specific contexts such as school.

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