Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Janet Jedlicka


Child; Depression; Disabled Children; Mental Disorders


The purpose of this scholarly project was to develop a tool that would assist occupational therapy practitioners working with children with physical disabilities in recognizing and addressing symptoms of depression in that population. Ailey (2003) reported that symptoms of depression in children with developmental disabilities are frequently attributed incorrectly to a child's primary diagnosis, rather than depression. Because occupational therapists typically see these children more frequently than primary care physicians, they are in a prime position to assist in the screening and referral processes related to depression.

This project involved a comprehensive review of the literature, including data on the prevalence of psychosocial dysfunction, needs of affected individuals, impact on families, available screening tools, programs addressing needs, the related role of occupational therapy, and the integration of occupational therapy theory. The available literature supported the hypothesis that children with physical disabilities have at least the same, if not greater, risk of psychosocial dysfunction as their non-disabled peers (Ailey, 2003; Cadman, Boyle, Szatmari, & Offord, 1987; Kokkonen, Kokkonen, & Moilanen, 2001). The author informally consulted with other occupational therapists working with children with physical disabilities to determine their perceived needs related to addressing psychosocial issues in a physical disabilities setting. Theories and models of practice in occupational therapy were reviewed, and the Model of Human Occupation, by Gary Kielhofner and Kirsty Forsyth, was selected to guide the development of this project, due to its holistic nature and having both physical and psychosocial applications.

A reference manual was developed to meet the needs identified by occupational therapy practitioners working with children with physical disabilities. Included in the manual is information related to the prevalence of depression in children with physical disabilities, information related to the need to assess and address psychosocial skills in the context of traditional pediatric settings, a listing of symptoms of depression in children, summative information on a variety of available screening tools for depression in children, and a reproducible assessment tool to enable screening of some children to begin right away. Examples of treatment activities which address both psychosocial and physical needs are also included.