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TITLE: Occupational Therapy Interventions that Influence Quality of Life of Care Partners of Children with Developmental Disabilities: A Systematic Review

PURPOSE: In the United States, 1 in 6 children have one or more developmental disabilities (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022). Children with developmental disabilities require a higher level of care and support in comparison to their typically developing peers (Akyurek et al., 2023). Due to this increased need for assistance, care partners may experience greater psychological, physical, social, and financial hardships that can impact their overall quality of life (Murphy et al., 2006). Although the scope of occupational therapy practice varies between states, practitioners have a role in addressing quality of life concerns of both children and their care partners. The purpose of this systematic review was to describe the effectiveness of interventions within the scope of occupational therapy to improve care partners’ quality of life.

DESIGN: We conducted a systematic review of studies that implemented occupational therapy interventions and measured quality of life of care partners of children with developmental disabilities.

METHOD: With assistance from a medical librarian, researchers compiled 107 results across four databases including, CINAHL, Google Scholar, PsychINFO, and MEDLINE. After duplicates were removed, 86 articles were screened by at least two members of the research team. Out of the 86 articles, 61 of the articles were reviewed using titles and abstracts. Utilizing full-text articles, researchers reviewed the remaining 25 studies. Five articles met the inclusion criteria. The United States Preventative Services Task Force levels of certainty and grade definitions were used to describe the interventions’ strength of evidence.

RESULTS: One level I study and four level IIIB studies were included in the review. Studies described two main themes of interventions, care partner-based interventions and interventions for children. Both had moderate strength of evidence for improving care partner quality of life. Care partner-based interventions focused on care partner training and education addressing principles of providing care including but not limited to toileting, transportation strategies, positioning, dressing, and feeding/eating. Interventions for children addressed motor functions and led to functional improvements for the child and increased quality of life for the care partner. In four of the five studies primary care partners were mothers. Outcomes of both intervention approaches included improvement in at least one domain of quality of life and two interventions led to improvements in multiple domains.

CONCLUSION: Interventions for the care partner and the child both improved the care partners’ quality of life. There is a need for additional research to evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions to include specifying therapeutic dosage and the application to a broader care partner population. Based on the moderate strength evidence for interventions, occupational therapy practitioners should offer and provide these services routinely.


Akyurek, G., Gurlek, S., Ozturk, L. K., & Bumin, G. (2023). The effect of parent-based occupational therapy on parents of children with cerebral palsy: A randomised controlled trial. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 30(1), 1–12.

Murphy, N. A., Christian, B., Caplin, D. A., & Young, C. P. (2006). The health of caregivers for children with disabilities: Caregiver perspectives. Child: Care, Health and Development, 33(2), 180-187.

Publication Date

Fall 11-2023


Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy Interventions that Influence Quality of Life of Care Partners of Children with Developmental Disabilities: A Systematic Review