Why do we do what we do? What drives our actions, motivates our thoughts and intentions, and shapes how we interact with others? Human behavior is framed through behavioral, social, and occupational sciences, and theories about human behavior guide our understanding of human “doing”. As occupational therapists, we are concerned with human behavior as it is revealed in meaningful activity, or occupation. For neonatal therapists, awareness and knowledge of human behavioral theories is foundational when providing evidence-based, occupation-centered, and family focused intervention. In this course, therapists will not only review pivotal theories undergirding NICU practice, but will be introduced to a visual model representing how occupational therapists use human behavioral theories to uniquely address the needs of infants and families in the NICU.
Dr. Ashlea Cardin is an Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO. She is also a practicing neonatal occupational therapist, having over 16 years’ experience in a Level III NICU at Mercy Children's Hospital, Springfield, MO. Dr. Cardin is Board Certified in Pediatrics through the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), was awarded the Neonatal Developmental Care Specialist Designation from the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) and is a licensed NOMAS® infant feeding professional. Dr. Cardin holds a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN; a Master of Occupational Therapy degree from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO; and a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Medicine and Athletic Training from Missouri State University. During her career, Dr. Cardin has published in peer-reviewed journals and presented internationally, nationally, and regionally on a multitude of neonatal topics, including infant and parent occupational performance in the NICU, developmentally supportive caregiving, infant feeding, parenting and family participation, evidence-based NICU practice, sensory, motor, and neurobehavioral development, the role of family advisory boards in care, and cultural competence in the NICU.
This chapter will define the term theory as a guiding light for occupational therapy practice and will describe how theories provide explanations for human “doing” and participation in meaningful occupation. The chapter will argue that theories are not extinguished lights buried in long-forgotten textbooks, but are the smoldering embers fueling the everyday lived experience of today’s neonatal occupational therapists.
This chapter builds on the understanding of theory as foundational illumination for the neonatal therapist’s path. A host of theories will be reviewed and introduced as pivotal to understanding human behavior as it influences occupational performance. With greater understanding of human behavior, neonatal occupational therapists can better support infant and family interaction in the NICU.
This chapter expands on the visual model of theoretically-grounded neonatal occupational therapy intervention, explaining how theories give rise to the conceptual practice models (CPMs) used by occupational therapists to guide therapist-client interaction. A review of current CPMs is provided, as is a discussion on models’ potential utilization in the neonatal intensive care unit.
In this final chapter, you get the opportunity to reflect on the theoretical frameworks guiding individual practice. A discussion of theory-appreciation as part of professional identity and evidence- and occupation-based practice will be offered.