Research Priority: Development and Transitions for Individuals and Families

Development and transitions is a priority area across the lifespan, and in home and community settings.  There is a great need for more effective interventions and improved outcomes.

  • Many topics in Healthy People 2020 emphasize the unique developmental needs of different age groups (early and middle childhood, adolescent health, older adults), populations (disability and health, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health), and conditions.1
  • Transitions - developmental transitions (e.g., puberty), change in roles and environments (e.g., school to work, retirement), transition in service settings (e.g., pediatric to adult health services) and others - may pose particular challenges during specific periods of development or populations, especially those with disabilities and chronic health conditions. 1
  • Research in child development “shows that experiences in early and middle childhood … affect future cognitive, social, emotional, language, and physical development, which in turn influences school readiness and later success in life.1  About 13% of U.S. children have a developmental or behavioral disability, but many of these children may not receive timely interventions because of delays in identification. 2
  • The transition from adolescence to adulthood can be particularly challenging for individuals with disabilities because of unique needs related to securing appropriate healthcare and education services, vocational planning, living environments, and community participation.3
  • Performance of many activities may change with aging (e.g., driving, work, physical activity). Evidence-based interventions are needed to support the health and safety of older adults. 4 


Urgent Need

Development and transitions have been identified as  

  • a critical issue requiring attention across the lifespan to promote health and well-being.  
  • an area in which evidence-based measures and interventions are needed
  • an area where application of the unique expertise of occupational therapy would be highly beneficial.    


The OT Lens

Development and transitions require mastering the “doing of everyday activities” that support participation in daily life, health and wellbeing. Occupational therapy understanding of daily occupations and of the ways in which person and environment factors may serve as supports and barriers to function may guide development of better measures and interventions to support performance and participation.  

Current knowledge, research training, measures and interventions are inadequate for addressing the developmental and transition needs of individuals and populations. AOTF is committed to the development of a scientific network and body of evidence to achieve effective and efficient advances in this area across the lifespan.


Opportunity to Affect Progress

There are a few occupational therapy scientists who are building knowledge related to development and transitions.  However, there is not a coordinated network for occupational therapy research in this area, nor sufficient resources to train more occupational therapy researchers.  We believe a significant investment is needed in order to address developmental and transition needs across the lifespan in order to achieve better outcomes and improve quality of life.



1. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2016). Healthy People Topics and Objectives. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives 


2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Developmental Monitoring and Screening.  Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/screening.html 


3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). People with Disabilities. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/people.html 


4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Healthy Aging. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/aging/index.html