Graduation Year


Degree Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy


Background: School-based occupational therapy practitioners must develop a skill set that allows effective service delivery to individuals, groups, and populations in the school setting in order to support students with varying disabilities achieving their occupation-based goals. There is limited research and literature regarding occupational therapy practitioners’ perceptions regarding working with students with challenging behaviors and what they feel has prepared them to work with these students. It is important to determine if additional training, professional development, fieldwork experiences or mentorships are necessary to prepare school-based therapists to manage students effectively and confidently on their caseload who have challenging behaviors.

Purpose: The purpose of this capstone project was to determine if school-based occupational therapy practitioners that work with students with challenging behaviors felt prepared to provide behavioral intervention strategies. This project also explored if school-based practitioners sought out additional resources to learn to work with students with challenging behaviors such as other professionals, continuing education, or mentorship.

Theoretical Framework. The Canadian Model of Occupational Performance and Engagement was used to guide this project. This model focuses on occupational performance and engagement and believes that occupation is the bridge that connects the person and environment.

Methods. This capstone project used a quantitative method with a survey design and one open-ended question. Ninety-seven participants opened the survey and 92 continued to complete the survey questions. The survey was designed to explore school-based occupational therapy practitioners’ perceptions about working with students with challenging behaviors, their feelings of preparedness and what helped them prepare.

Results. Participants reported that they do work with students with challenging behaviors and did not feel prepared to manage challenging behaviors their first year as a school-based practitioner. Participants became prepared by attending continuing education courses and trainings about behaviors, developing mentorships with other professionals and on the job experience. Participants recommended changes to academic coursework and fieldwork experiences, attending training about managing challenging behaviors and seeking out mentorship opportunities.

Conclusions: Results show that school-based occupational therapy practitioners do not feel prepared to manage students with challenging behaviors their first year in this setting. Continued learning and mentorship is important to the practitioners feeling of preparedness when working with students with challenging behaviors. Occupational therapy students or practitioners interested in working in a school-based setting are responsible for initiating their own learning about challenging behaviors and effective intervention strategies.

Faculty Mentor

Camille Skubik-Peplaski, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Committee Member

Laura Bray PhD, MS, OTR/L

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

IRB Approval Number (if applicable)