Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Shirley P. O'Brien

Department Affiliation

Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Second Advisor

Dana M. Howell

Department Affiliation

Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Third Advisor

Toby Scott-Cross

Department Affiliation

Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy


Literature describing the experiences of adolescents and their families with summer day-programs is scarce. This study sought to reveal such experiences from one individual participating in a summer program, HorseAbility, in which individuals with disabilities interact with each other through planned and self-directed activities, therapeutic riding, and activities associated with taking care of horses. Interviews were conducted with an adolescent diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, his parent, a staff member of the summer day program, and the therapeutic riding instructor. Observation data and personal journaling was also used for data collection mechanisms. Data sources were triangulated to provide a rich understanding of the case. The interviews were transcribed and coded using an inductive approach. Two major themes were identified including, perception is critical to adolescent experiences and the just right challenge’s role for adolescent engagement and memory building. Results suggest reinforcement of typical adolescent developmental challenges and the need for engagement opportunities based upon skill development. Suggestions for future program development are included to support occupational engagement.