Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

LaVonne Fox


Cultural Competency -- education; Occupational Therapy -- methods; Adolescent


PROBLEM: Currently tests such as the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) and ACT (American College Testing), as well as employment use what is identified as formal sociolinguistic register (Joos, 1967 & Payne, 2005). Payne (2005) built upon Joos’ (1967) definition and presented five registers: frozen, formal, consultative, casual, and intimates. Formal register is defined as; one-way participation, no interruption such as is seen with introductions between stangers. Technical vocabulary; “fuzzy semantics" or exact definitions are important. Montano-Harmon (1991) found that many minority and poor students do not have access to formal register at home but rather tend to rely primarily in the causal/informal register. According to Joos (1967), “one can go one sociolinguistic register down in the same conversation and that is socially accepted, but to drop two registers or more in the same conversation is thought to be socially offensive” (p. 27). If adolescents of low- socioeconomic status not have access to the formal register in the home environment, they may be placed at a significant disadvantage.

METHODOLOGY: A comprehensive literature review was conducted to explore the relationship between low- socioeconomic status, culture, family dynamics, sociolinguistic registers/communication, and education. For this scholarly project the focus was placed on the areas of occupation, specifically education and communication with activities or occupations arranged into categories. “All people need to be able or enabled to engage in the occupations of their need and choice, to grow through what they do, and to experience independence or interdependence, equality, participation, security, health, and well-being” (Wilcock & Townsend, 2008, p. 198).

RESULTS: The result of the literature review is the development of Educating &Communicating through Sociolinguistic Registers: Adolescent Clients. This guide has been developed for use with adolescent clients 13-17 years-old. The scholarly project itself was guided by using the Ecological Model. The purpose of this scholarly project was two-fold: 1. Develop a guide designed to strengthen the adolescent’s use and comfort with formal register, to strengthen their confidence in the occupation of education and transfer to the occupation of employment resulting in more success with these endeavors. 2. Strengthen the occupational therapist’s communication skills with the adolescent client in a school, community, or mental health setting. The aim is to enhance their therapeutic-use-of-self and intervention approaches in these settings to ensure client centered care. Methods include leaning about sociolinguistic registers, culture, family dynamics and how to implement these resources.

CONCLUSIONS: Although there are many factors that influence an adolescent’s success or not in society, there are very few an individual clinician has the ability to control. Due to the challenge of addressing these needs, Educating & Communicating through Sociolinguistic Registers: Adolescent Clients was developed using the Ecological Model. The one area that can be influenced is how occupational therapists communicate with clients both orally and written. When adolescents are not able to adequately use the formal register, such as in conversation or writing skills, they are not able to participate in areas of occupation such as formal/informal education and communication. It is essential that they are able to independently participate in these areas of occupation to fulfill their role as family members, adolescents, successful students, and society as well. Occupational therapy (OT) can play a significant role in addressing these needs of adolescents. The guide can serve as a resource regarding sociolinguistic registers, cultural competency, and understanding low-socioeconomic status. It will be made available to practicing occupational therapists as a resources and reference.