Our innovative research strives to impact the health and occupations of people and their communities KU faculty are leading efforts in community-engaged research to support full participation of individuals with diverse strengths and challenges in everyday life activities.
Learn about our interdisciplinary research efforts and the many ways our students participate in research.
Accessible Leisure Lab (ALL)
The major goal of ongoing research by Lisa Mische Lawson, Ph.D., CTRS, is to promote the health of individuals with disabilities and chronic illness through leisure and physical activity.
This research team investigates factors impeding or facilitating leisure participation and the effects of physically active recreation on health behaviors and body composition. Mische Lawson directs KU Sensory Enhanced Aquatics, a swimming and water safety program for children with autism spectrum disorders. Her research specifically focuses on the effects of water-based physical activity on health outcomes of children with autism.
Graduate students working in this program obtain clinical and research experiences with physical activity measurement, program development and evaluation, one-on-one client services, and quantitative and qualitative research methods. They also acquire significant presentation and writing experience suited for communicating with professional and general audiences.
Occupational therapy faculty member Laurie Steen, OTR/L, CEAS I, provides clinical services and supports research through the Driving and Mobility Clinic in the Laboratory for Advanced Rehabilitation and Research In Simulation. Graduate students working in this program gain advanced clinical skills in conducting driving evaluations. They also support collaborative research with faculty from the Department of Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Science, and Athletic Training.
Multiple Sclerosis Achievement Center
Joan Augustyn, OTD, OTR/L, is the occupational therapy coordinator at the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Achievement Center at KU Medical Center (msachievementcenter.org.). Her focus is on clinical care and research relating to direct community participation for all people. She recently led a team of occupational therapy students to modify, implement and evaluate a national health promotion program for individuals with MS attending the achievement center during the COVID-19 pandemic. Augustyn’s program emphasizes the valuable role of clinician scholars in the research process and supports students to develop skills needed for successful research collaborations.
Parent and Behavioral Training
Research by Alice Zhang, Ph.D., BCBA-D, is focused upon increasing evidence-based service access for families of children with autism spectrum disorder and other related disorders via technology. She provides clinical services including parent training and behavioral consultation through both in-person and telehealth clinics.
She is also passionate about advocating for health care access and disability rights. She has long-standing research collaborations with the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training, and the LEND Network. Graduate students working with Zhang are involved in all aspects of the research process from design to dissemination, with emphasis on grant writing and participatory action research approach.
Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis
Ongoing research by Kelli Reiling Ott, OTD, OTR/L, builds upon her extensive clinical experiences, including interprofessional clinic consultation for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, seating and mobility assessments and involvement in a community-based program for individuals with multiple sclerosis.
Sensory Experiences and Participation
Investigating sensory experiences and interventions promoting participation in everyday life, particularly feeding, Lauren Foster, OTD, OTR/L, collaborates with a speech language pathologist to investigate the effects of a community-based responsive feeding therapy on tube-weaning.
Her other collaborative studies investigate the effects of sensory garments on sleep and participation among children with autism spectrum disorders. Students working with Foster gain skills in program evaluation and qualitative research. Training emphasizes data collection and management, intervention fidelity, and scholarly writing.
Dory Sabata, OTD, OTR/L, studies teaching and learning methodology, interprofessional education and practice and community participation and health of persons with stroke.
She developed year-long service-learning opportunities for entry-level occupational therapy students and championed interprofessional education. In addition, she now leads the department to develop and implement innovative educational methodologies.
Sabata's research of educational methodologies and community participation of stroke survivors is intertwined. Students are trained to support stroke survivors to participate in community activities. Research projects investigate both the effectiveness of educational methodologies and participation outcomes.
Neurological Assessment & Neuroscience
Rehabilitation of Concussion Injuries
Research by Jeff Radel, Ph.D., studies biophysical and social risk factors for concussions and other causes of traumatic brain injury. Of particular interest is the subset of patients who are slow to recover full function after brain injury and those individuals continuing to experience persistent post-concussion symptoms that often limit the return to normal activities.
An important focus is the evaluation of factors influencing the trajectory of recovery and the study of social factors influencing participation by parents, students, teachers, and school officials behaviors and activities that risk concussion injury.
Students in the doctoral program in therapeutic science enter with research questions derived from their clinical experiences. Students will develop a plan of study with the program director to be supported by faculty within and outside the department.
"I teach mindfulness and meditation, support staff directly, do research incorporating mindfulness and mediation and work within the health care system to advance practices that support well-being. In addition to my work at Children’s Mercy, I’ve also taken the opportunity to use my skills in the community. I have a family and individual therapy practice, Transforming Praxis and a mindfulness colleague and I also share the practice of meditation and mindfulness in the community through our company Mindable."- Kelly Trowbridge, Ph.D., Class of 2015, family and individual therapist in private practice at Transforming Praxis, LLC http://transformingpraxis.com