Date of Award


Document Type

Oral Presentation/Poster

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Health Science

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Megan Johnke, OTD, OTR/L


occupational therapy, youth, trauma, trauma-informed care, juvenile justice system, life skills

Subject Categories

Occupational Therapy


Youth who have experienced trauma are at risk for negative developmental changes to their brain, which may lead to poor health outcomes, involvement in the juvenile justice system, and early death. This population may experience a lack of occupational engagement, decreased self-regulation strategies, and difficulty forming life skills that are necessary for carrying out everyday tasks. Having trauma-informed awareness in the contexts of these individuals is essential when providing care and meeting their needs. The doctoral capstone project aimed to promote life skills through an occupation-based program for youth in the juvenile justice system. Current literature supports the need for occupational therapy’s role in delivering life skills interventions and self-regulation techniques to support social, cognitive, and emotional health.

Participants ranged from 12-17 years old. There were ten life skills topics in total. 50 youth received at least one life skills session throughout, but only eight received five or more and were considered for data analysis. The Casey Life Skills (CLS) Short Form is a pre- and post-test used to measure independent living skills in functional areas. A pre- and post-test Practical Skills Survey was created to identify youths’ perception and knowledge of occupational therapy and other life skills areas not addressed on the CLS Short. A pre- and post-test staff survey was created via Qualtrics to acquire feedback and knowledge on life skills topics. A paired sample t-test determined changes that occurred post-intervention. Results demonstrated that youth benefited from life skills groups and gained awareness of occupational therapy and self-regulation. Staff survey results showed an increase in awareness of occupational therapy, self-regulation, and trauma-informed care. These results imply that occupational therapy has a positive role in the juvenile justice setting and in promoting life skills.



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