Occupational Therapy: High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2nd Edition

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About the Author

Patricia LaVesser, PhD, OTR, received her Bachelor of Science degree in occupational therapy from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, her master of arts in teaching from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, and her doctorate in social work from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Since 2009, Dr. LaVesser has been an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, JFK Partners, at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. Dr. LaVesser currently serves as occupational therapy discipline director on the Leadership in Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities program under a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. She also serves as a clinician case reviewer for the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network and as an evaluator for the Study to Explore Early Development. Clinically, Dr. LaVesser coordinates service provision for the Family Driven Autism Services and Learning project, serves on two of the interdisciplinary clinical assessment teams at the Child Development Unit of The Children’s Hospital Denver, and provides early intervention services through the ENRICH program. Prior to joining the faculty at JFK Partners, Dr. LaVesser was a faculty member at the occupational therapy program at Washington University in St. Louis for 25 years. She has a wide range of clinical pediatric experience that includes early intervention and school-based and hospital-based practice. Her current research interests include the study of adaptive skills intervention models and outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental difficulties.

Content author: Mary Kientz, OTD, OTR, is an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Richard Stockton College in Galloway, New Jersey. She received her BS in occupational therapy from Elizabethtown College, in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, and both her MS and doctorate degree in occupational therapy from the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Dr. Kientz has more than 20 years of experience as an occupational therapist. Her professional interests include working with children with autism and other developmental disorders. She worked for many years in early intervention and school programs and most recently operated her own private practice that provided interdisciplinary services for children of all ages and abilities. Dr. Kientz’s work has included educating parents, teachers, caregivers, and other service providers in the use of positive, proactive approaches to support individuals with challenging behaviors. 

Occupational Therapy Planner: Michelle Hediger, MS, OTR/L
The contributors to this course have no conflicts of interest relative to its content.

This course is based, in part, on the original work, Asperger’s Syndrome – Diagnosis, Treatment Issues, and Interventions, by Lauren H. Kerstein, LCSW.


Learning Objectives
  • Recognize the history and prevalence of autism spectrum disorders.
  • Describe the causal theories for autism spectrum disorders.
  • Identify diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders.
  • Identify the specific strengths and challenges for individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
  • Describe the occupational therapy evaluation and assessment of high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
  • Select appropriate evidence-based interventions and strategies to address occupational performance difficulties for individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.

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