Sylvia Anne Rodger*, BOcc Thy, MEd St, PhD
Sylvia Anne Rodger*, BOcc Thy, MEd St, PhD

Sylvia Anne Rodger*, BOcc Thy, MEd St, PhD


d. 2017

Dr. Rodger was Professor, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and Director of Research and Education at Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Autism CRC).

Her research interests were primarily in the areas of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), top down interventions, Cognitive Orientation for daily Occupational Performance (CO-OP), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), early intervention, family centred practice and parent education.(http://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/133)

Dr. Rodger was the 2011 recipient of the Sylvia Docker Lecture, established in 1964 by Occupational Therapy Australia, to honor Miss Sylvia Docker who established the first training school for Occupational Therapists in Sydney in 1941. The purpose of the lecture is to encourage occupational therapists in their professional careers and to honor those who have outstanding contributions to occupational therapy. (Retrieved on September 20, 2015 from http://www.otaus.com.au/about/association-awards/award-winners.)  

Dr. Rodger received Australia's Freda Jacob Award in 2014 which acknowledges occupational therapists who contribute significantly to the profession with their vision, advocacy, and innovation.


Identify three words that others have used to describe you.
Visionary, persistent and determined, innovative.

How do you hope to make a difference in the world through research?
My research to date has focused on real world issues and real world solutions, such as through leadership in scholarship and capacity building our emerging academic leaders and researching effective mechanisms to address this challenge. My future clinical research will focus on making a difference to the lives of Australians with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) through the establishment of a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC). As CEO I will have the capacity to shape the national research agenda of the CRC over the next 8 years to be coordinated, relevant, end user focused, and embedded into the health, education ,community service sectors. and to ensure that we tackle the real world issues that are important to our end users.

What is one piece of advice you have for individuals considering a career in science and research?
You will be surprised what doors can be opened for you. In my experience by being open to opportunities, there are possibilities to make the most of situations. Mentors have provided me many opportunities and they have been astounding. You don't always know what the outcome will be but sometimes you have trust the journey (not just the destination). While it is good to be strategic and plan your future, there are times where serendipity and opportunities present themselves, so take risks and have a go! If someone opens a door for you and provides you an opportunity, seize it even if you don't know where it might lead you. What happens when you go through the door is up to you!

Beside your own areas of inquiry, what is one research priority that you believe is important for the future of occupational science and occupational therapy?
Establishing how and why occupation makes such a difference in people's lives, how it is health giving and nurturing; how its absence or limitations impacts negatively on health and well-being. I have a sense that many people (outside of OT) are beginning to see that doing, activities and being engaged in life situations are health giving. This is the essence of OT and something we need to research and develop the evidence base for, namely the engagement in purposeful and meaningful occupation. Finding the right tools, methodologies and evaluation strategies remains critical to this agenda. Much has been done but so much more is still needed, so that we can provide solid evidence for the most crucial theoretical underpinnings of our profession.

Describe the most important role that mentors played in your professional journey.
In my professional career I have been fortunate to have had access to and support from different mentors. At different stages of my career, I have needed different mentors - the right person for the right time. But some have hung in with me for a long time! Don't be afraid to ask someone really senior within the profession nationally or internationally for help or advice. My experience is that these people are extremely generous and they are keen to share their tips and mistakes with you and to assist with the development of the next generation of researchers. No one has ever turned a call for help down in my experience, so be brave and ask!

Identify a favorite occupation that renews you outside of your work.
Recently my husband and I have become dog owners thanks to our son who bought a Border Collie puppy two years ago. She has introduced us to dog parks, off-leash areas and the joys of talking to other dog owners as we walk. People stop and talk to you when you have a dog! It has been life changing! Dogs always love to see you no matter how bad your day has been, they just love to see you when you get home!

What has been the most surprising or rewarding aspects of a career in science and research?
Probably what I have learned from research participants. Any time you think you have it together as a researcher, your participants have another view, that needs to be heard, considered, and often leads to new research directions that we would never have followed had we not listened to what is important to them and what their experiences are. This has often been the most humbling and inspiring of experiences. As researchers it is a privilege that participants trust us enough to engage in our research. We owe them a debt of gratitude and we owe them the respect to listen and learn. Their expertise in their lived experience when we really listen, makes our own pale into insignificance.


Rodger, S. (2012). Leadership through an occupational lens: Celebrating our territory. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 59, 172-179.

Chien, CW, Rodger, S & Copley, J.  (2015). Development and psychometric evaluation of a new measure for children's participation in hand-use life situations. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 96, 1045-1055.

Kennedy-Behr, A, Rodger, S & Mickan, S.  (2013). A comparison of the play skills of preschool children with and without developmental coordination disorder. OTJR: Occupation, participation and Health, 33, 198-208.  

Rodger, S, Coleman, A, Caine, AM, Chien, CW, Copley, J, Turpin, M & Brown, T.  (2014). Examining the inter-rater and test-retest reliability of the Student Practice Evaluation Form-Revised (SPEF-R) for occupational therapy students.  Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 61, 353-363.

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