Megan Henly, Kimberly G. Phillips, Sarah L. Smith, Edward M. Kloza, Debra L. Brucker
Families of children with developmental delays but no diagnosed genetic condition may benefit from connection to genetic systems of care. This work examines the role of occupational therapy as a space for families of pediatric patients to gain access to genetic services. Between September 2021 and February 2022, we interviewed 20 occupational therapists in New England who work primarily with pediatric patients. We transcribed the interviews and used a grounded theory approach to identify and code recurring themes. The data reveal several barriers to linking pediatric patients to genetic systems of care, including lack of insurance coverage, wait times for appointments and test results, hesitant primary care providers, and familial and cultural stigma of disability. We discuss the unique role of occupational therapists as professionals who spend substantial time with patients, often in their everyday environments, to bridge these barriers. We also address challenges associated with occupational therapists facilitating connections to genetics services, including their lack of specialized knowledge of genetics and barriers fully integrating with others on the medical team.
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