Date of Award


Document Type

Critically Appraised Topic


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Anne Haskins

Second Advisor

Breann Lamborn

Third Advisor

Gail Bass/Devon Olson Lambert


According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2017, Sec. 300.8), emotional disturbance is defined as a condition in which there are one or more of the following symptoms that interferes with a child’s ability perform successfully in their education: “An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors, an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers, inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances, a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression, and a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems” (Sec. 300.8 c, 4, para. i-ii) In a publication from the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation (2020), almost six percent of students with disabilities have a diagnosis of emotional disturbance. Even though emotional disturbance affects almost six percent of students, the available literature contains little research on the subject. Specifically, almost no research has been done on occupational therapy interventions to assist in school success. Children with emotional disturbance are an under researched and misunderstood subsection of children with disabilities. One specific diagnosis that exists in the same realm as emotional disturbance and is heavily researched is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Application of interventions originally geared for ASD to children with emotional disturbance could yield promising results if time and resources are spent on research.