Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy - Masters by Research Theses

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    School connectedness: a qualitative case study through an occupational lens
    (University College Cork, 2022) O'Leary, Jennifer; Boyle, Bryan; Lynch, Helen
    Background: School connectedness is an under researched concept in all professions. While the term “belonging” has been used within occupational science, “connectedness” is not a term frequently used. To date, there is one study based on school connectedness and occupation and there is no study in an Irish context. The relationship, if any, between occupation and school connectedness is not understood. Given the strong position of belonging in occupational science, this concept must be understood in a school context. Since the passing of Ann Wilcock (1940-2019), there has been a call for research which continues to build on her Occupational Perspective of Health (doing, being, becoming, belonging). This study aims to do so within a school context. Aim/ Objectives: This research study had three aims; 1) To better understand students and their school’s personnel perceptions of school connectedness 2) To further understand what determines a student’s sense of connectedness to the school environment according to the students and the school personnel 3) To explore the relationship between student’s school-based occupations and their sense of school connectedness. Study Design: This research study is a qualitative single instrumental case study. This study commenced by an entire sixth class group completing a creative exercise to elicit data. Ten students engaged in a focus group and individual semi-structured interviews. This study also had four school personnel engage in individual semi-structured interviews. Thematic data analysis was conducted. Findings: Four themes emerged from the findings; 1) The Importance of the Student’s Social Context on School Connectedness 2) Occupational Influence on School Connectedness 3) Co-constructing an Environment for School Connectedness 4) How Community Connectedness is Reflected in the School. Conclusions: This study established a new perspective of school connectedness through an occupational lens. School connectedness is necessary for enhancing every student’s school occupational performance. Findings outline that due to the impact school connectedness has on occupational participation, occupational therapists should promote school connectedness through a whole school approach. Findings enhance the need to consider the value of interdependence as an outcome to practice.
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    Occupation, identity and belonging within community: experiences of mental health disability
    (University College Cork, 2020-04-18) Cassidy, Caoileann; Jackson, Jeanne; Lynch, Helen
    Background: This is a qualitative research study exploring the perspectives of Irish people with self-reported mental health disability in participating in occupation within their community environments. The relatedness of occupation to health and the concept of belonging requires further research and understanding within the discipline of Occupational Science and within the practice of Occupational Therapy. Methodology: Purposive sampling was employed to recruit three participants, from one national mental health support organisation. A phenomenological and narrative framework was adopted in this research. This informed the use of narrative interviews and observation methods to gather data about occupations enacted by participants within their community environments. Open ended narrative interviews were adopted to encourage storied accounts of participants’ experiences, with each participant engaging in two interviews. Following the first interview, each participant collaborated with the researcher in planning an observation session, with the researcher as complete participant, in a chosen occupation within their local, familiar environment. Following this each participant engaged in a second interview with the researcher. Data Collection and Analysis: Digital audio recordings were transcribed anonymously and verbatim from interviews, coupled with field notes from observations, using thematic analysis. This analysis upheld the integrity of each story while illuminating shared meaning of participants’ chosen occupations. Findings: In answer to the research questions, two primary themes were identified, with each theme encompassing two subthemes. The first theme “Experiencing Normality and Promoting Health” explores how participants in this study experienced feeling or anticipated feeling normal through their participation in occupation. Additionally, they chose occupations to promote their physical and mental health when navigating changes to their identities as a result of their mental health distress or disability. The second theme was “Meaning Making and Experiences of Inclusion and Exclusion within Community” exploring participants meaning making through occupation in their local environments, within places and amongst others. The first subtheme captures how participants participated in meaning making with others. The second focuses on their experiences of inclusion and exclusion with stigma emerging from their surrounding environments, impacting feelings of belonging. Discussion: The findings of this study inform understanding of occupation and expand knowledge of its relationship to health, specifically mental health. It contributes to existing research concerning the impact of the social world on a person’s occupational choices, possibilities and resultant identities. Further these findings have elicited greater understanding about the meaning of these occupations to participants and how this enabled their participation through “being” and “belonging” in their communities. Conclusion: The results of this study contribute to theory generation of occupation within the discipline of occupational science and to the clinical practice of occupational therapy. The findings of the current research indicate that stigma and experiences of exclusion prevail for people with mental health disabilities. Results also find that participation in occupation, within affirming environments can create experiences of normality and promote health. Further, participation in occupation fosters experiences of inclusion and belonging.
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    Children’s voices: participation in decision-making within the goal setting process in occupational therapy
    (University College Cork, 2019-12-17) O'Connor, Deirdre; Lynch, Helen; Boyle, Bryan
    Introduction: Children’s participation in decision-making remains an under-researched area, especially in the context of Occupational Therapy. Therefore, the principal aim of this research was to explore the experience of children in relation to having their voices heard within goal-setting in Occupational Therapy. This is consistent with Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989) and with Occupational Therapy’s commitments to client-centred practice (World Federation of Occupational Therapy, 2019). Study Design: Informed by the approaches of ethnography, this qualitative study had 17 participants including 6 children, 5 parent(s)/guardian(s) and 6 occupational therapists to gain multiple perspectives from those involved in goal-setting. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with all participants, while a mosaic approach offered children multiple methods to communicate their experience. Findings were analysed using a thematic analysis approach. Findings: On analysis, 3 themes emerged: 1) Where goal setting exists: Experiences of paediatric Occupational Therapy services in an Irish context; 2) Children’s right to be heard: Knowledge, views, attitudes and power and 3) Goal setting processes … power and influence. Findings suggest that Occupational Therapy goals are, for the most part, adult directed and as such children’s voices are subsumed by adult agendas, priorities, and adult-led services. Conclusion: Findings illustrate that despite healthcare professionals valuing the voice of children, children and their parent(s)/guardian(s) are not consistently included in goal-setting. Numerous factors impacting children’s participation in decision-making were found such as awareness and attitudes towards children and their rights as well as the age and ability of children, for example. Few formal guidelines or standards exist as to how to operationalise a child’s right-based approach in practice.