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Research SnapshOT

MS in OT students Mia OpertaAna Erika Ruiz, and Hava Vainstein and MS/OTD student Liyi Straly worked with their faculty mentor Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy Janet Njelesani to better understand students with disabilities’ perspectives of the role of occupational therapists in addressing school bullying.

Read on to learn more about their research, entitled "School Bullying: Student Perceptions of OT's Role," which they recently presented at the Steinhardt Research and Scholarship Showcase.


School bullying is a serious issue for students with disabilities. Occupational therapists (OTs) have valuable mental health and child development knowledge and training to address this issue. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) advocates for OTs' participation in addressing bullying as front-line providers. However, students' perspectives on how OTs address bullying are not represented in the literature.


To understand the perspective of students with disabilities on how occupational therapists are addressing school bullying.


  • Study design: Qualitative interpretative
  • Methods: Adaptable, age-appropriate, inclusive child-friendly methods were used including interview questions, vignettes, and sentence starters.
  • Participants: Middle and high school students with disabilities living in the United States were purposively sampled to ensure children with a range of impairments were included.
  • Data analysis: Thematic analysis


  • Students are not receiving the services they need from OTs, as OTs are not asking or addressing school bullying with students with disabilities. 
  • Students feel that the OT is a safe person to speak to about their feelings and school experience. 
  • Students are talking about bullying to their peers.


  • OTs should work within interprofessional teams to bring in unique ideas from the field of occupational therapy, thereby maximizing the team’s expertise to identify students at risk for bullying and provide appropriate interventions.
  • OTs should receive training on addressing bullying in entry-level and continuing education programs.
Liyi Straly

Occupational therapists have been shown to hold a significant role in addressing school bullying among students with disabilities, but there is limited literature on students' perceptions of occupational therapists, so we wanted to investigate these further.

Liyi Straly
Mia Operta

I hope the impact of this research will be greater involvement of occupational therapy in addressing school bullying as well as greater awareness among students that their occupational therapist is someone they can confide in if they ever experience bullying.

Mia Operta

Related Degrees

Master of Science
Occupational Therapy
Professional Degree

The NYU Steinhardt Professional MS in Occupational Therapy prepares graduates to become registered occupational therapists.

Master of Science / Doctoral
Two-Tiered MS/Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)

This two-tiered MS/OTD prepares graduates to become registered occupational therapists and advance their applied knowledge of the profession.