Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Dr. Angie Mandich


Individuals who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience a range of difficulties that impact their daily occupational performance. The current body of research identifies the importance of occupational engagement and competence as fundamental elements in facilitating an individual’s social connections, development of personal autonomy and overall wellbeing. This dissertation explores the use of concept mapping embedded within the meta-cognitive framework of the Cognitive Orientation to Daily Occupational Performance (CO-OP) approach, to engage adolescents with ASD in meaningful occupations.

This thesis contains three manuscripts, an introductory and a final reflection chapter. The first manuscript is a methodological paper that outlines a qualitative concept mapping framework that can be applied within the field of occupational science. The second manuscript explores how concept mapping can be theoretically embedded with the CO-OP approach to facilitate the engagement, occupational competence, relatedness and autonomy of adolescents with ASD. The third manuscript presents the findings of a focused sensory ethnography exploration that explores the personalized and socio-cultural perceptions of adolescents with ASD while participating in a novel intervention. The third manuscript is analyzed using an occupational science framework, and highlights the themes identified by the participants through their concept maps and personal reflections. The data were analyzed using the qualitative concept mapping framework presented in the first manuscript, and through deductive thematic analysis using a theoretical codebook derived and highlighted in the third manuscript.

This thesis contributes new knowledge to shaping the development and delivery of interventions focused on enhancing the occupational performance of adolescents with ASD in meaningful goals important in the transition to adulthood. It has expanded the limited research that approaches the topic from the frameworks of qualitative research, multi-modal and multi-sensory methods. It also uniquely explores the concept of human occupation as it relates to culture of ASD, and the development of meaningful life skills within a group environment. This work has implications for the future methodologies and research questions for studies exploring the lives of adolescents with ASD, the CO-OP approach, and the use of visual methods in exploring occupational meaning.