University of Southern California
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Mary Lawlor ScD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Mary Lawlor

Associate Chair of Research and Professor, joint appointment with the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Department of Pediatrics

Room: CHP 222C
Phone: (323) 442-2820
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Biography

Mary Lawlor is known for her work in the areas of pediatric occupational therapy, maternal and child health, family-centered care, interdisciplinary models of service delivery, and ethnographic research. She graduated magna cum laude from Boston University in Occupational Therapy and received her master's degree in Education from Harvard University. She earned her Sc.D. in Therapeutic Studies from Boston University, and is a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association. She is currently Principal Investigator for an interdisciplinary longitudinal ethnographic research project funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health. The study involves African-American children with special health care needs, their families and the practitioners who serve them. She has also received grants from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the U.S. Department of Education, and the American Occupational Therapy Foundation.

Research Interests

Dr. Lawlor's interests are in examining the meanings of illness and disability in family life, the social nature of therapeutic experience, and cultural influences on health care and developmental processes.

Education

Doctorate of Science (ScD)
Boston University
1989

Independent Study in Systems Theory, Introduction and Application
Boston University
1977

Bachelor of Science (BS) in Occupational Therapy
Brandeis University
1972

Publications

Books

Henderson, A., Lawlor, M. C., & Pekoski, C. (1986). Pediatric occupational therapy: Challenges for the future. Boston, MA: Boston University.

Lawlor, M. C. (1984). Occupational therapy services through quality assurance: A study of patient referrals. Rockville, MD: American Occupational Therapy Program.

Book Chapters

Lawlor, M. C., & Mattingly, C. (2014). Family perspectives on occupation, health, and disability. In B. A. B. Schell, G. Gillen, & M. E. Scaffa (Eds.), Willard & Spackman’s occupational therapy (12th ed.). (pp. 150-162). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Link to full text

Clark, F. A., & Lawlor, M. C. (2008). The making and mattering of occupational science. In E. B. Crepeau, E. S. Cohn, & B. A. B. Schell (Eds.), Willard & Spackman’s occupational therapy (11th ed.). (pp. 2-14). Philadelphia, PA: J. P. Lippincott Co. Link to full text

Lawlor, M. C., & Mattingly, C. F. (2008). Understanding family perspectives on illness and disability experience. In E. B. Crepeau, E. S. Cohn, & B. A. B. Schell (Eds.), Willard and Spackman’s occupational therapy (11th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Link to full text

Lawlor, M. C. (2003). Mothering work: Negotiating healthcare, illness and disability, and development. In S. A. Esdaile & J. A. Olson (Eds.), Mothering occupations: Challenge, agency, and participation. (pp. 306-323). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.

Mattingly, C. F., & Lawlor, M. C. (2003). Disability experience from a family perspective. In E. Crepeau, E. Cohn, & B. Schell (Eds.), Willard & Spackman’s occupational therapy (10th ed.). (pp. 69-79). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott.

Mattingly, C. F., & Lawlor, M. C. (1998). Illness experience from a family perspective. In M. E. Neistadt & E. B. Crepeau (Eds.), Willard & Spackman’s occupational therapy (9th ed.). (pp. 43-53). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott.

Lawlor, M. C. (1991). A conceptual framework for quality assurance. In B. Joe (Ed.), Quality assurance in occupational therapy. (pp. 7-17). Rockville, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

Lawlor, M. C. (1991). Historical and societal influences on school system practice. In A. Bundy (Ed.), Making a difference: OTs and PTs in public schools. (pp. 1-15). Chicago, IL: The University of Illinois at Chicago.

Lawlor, M. C. (1991). Quality assurance in pediatrics. In B. Joe (Ed.), Quality assurance in occupational therapy. (pp. 18-23). Rockville, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

Lawlor, M. C. (1987). Improving occupational therapy services through quality assurance: A study of patient referrals. In J. Bair (Ed.), Occupational therapy in acute care settings: A manual. (pp. 9-28). Rockville, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

Lawlor, M. C., & Zielinski, A. (1983). Occupational therapy. In G. Thompson, I. Rubin, & R. Bileaker (Eds.), Comprehensive management of cerebral palsy. (pp. 181-191). New York, NY: Grune & Stratton.

Journal Articles

Solomon, O., & Lawlor, M. C. (2013). "And I look down and he is gone": Narrating autism, elopement and wandering in Los Angeles. Social Science & Medicine, 94, 106-114. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.06.034. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

'Wandering' and 'elopement' have been identified as common in autism, affecting half of all diagnosed children ages four to ten, yet families rarely receive advice from practitioners even after the fact. Family perspectives have been missing from the literature as well as from public health and policy debates on how and when to respond to this problem. The problem of 'wandering' and 'elopement' reveals a complex intersection of larger issues encountered by families of children with autism. To consider these issues, this article examines 'wandering' and 'elopement' from the perspectives of African American mothers of children with autism, an underrepresented group in autism research. We consider how the mothers experience these behaviors and the response to these behaviors by professionals, such as service coordinators and law enforcement personnel working within various jurisdictions that become involved with the problem. We analyze the mothers' narratives about 'wandering' and 'elopement' drawn from ethnographic interviews that were collected between October 1, 2009 and August 31, 2012. These interviews were part of a larger project on disparities in autism diagnosis and services that followed a cohort of 25 four to ten-year old children. Drawing on narrative, phenomenological and interpretive traditions, we trace the mothers' developing understandings of 'wandering' and 'elopement' over time, and show how these understandings become elaborated and transformed. This article provides a nuanced, moment-to-moment and longitudinal picture of the mothers' experiences of 'wandering' and 'elopement' that enriches the cross-sectional view of large-scale surveys about the problem and contributes unique insights at the family and community levels. Implications for professional awareness, clinical practice and service provision are also suggested.

Jacobs, L., Lawlor, M. C., & Mattingly, C. F. (2011). I/We narratives among African American families raising children with special needs. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 35(1), 3-25. doi:10.1007/s11013-010-9196-5. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

This paper examines a statistics debate among African American caregivers raising children with disabilities for insights into the work of "African American mothering." Using ethnographic, narrative and discourse analyses, we delineate the work that African American mothers do—in and beyond this conversation—to cross ideological and epistemological boundaries around race and disability. Their work entails choosing to be an "I" and, in some cases, actively resisting being seen as a "they" and/or part of a collective "we" in order to chart alternative futures for themselves and their children.

Lawlor, M. C. (2010). Commentary: Autism and anthropology?. ETHOS: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology, 38(1), 167-171. doi:10.1111/j.1548-1352.2009.01086.x. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

The articles in the Special Issue, "Rethinking Autism, Rethinking Anthropology," provide a ground for demonstrating substantive contributions to understandings of autism and mark the dilemmas and tensions inherent in anthropological approaches. Comments explore the ways in which authors attend to demarcation of the social world, establishment and negotiation of expertise, juxtaposition of autism as a phenomenon of interest and as an exemplar of sociality, and management of structured and improvisational approaches to the study of engagements in real life. The dilemmas and tensions that are briefly described here are only a partial list of still uncultivated spaces where autism and anthropology can–should–do meet.

Lawlor, M. C. (2003). Gazing anew: The shift from a clinical gaze to an ethnographic lens. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 57, 29-39. doi:10.5014/ajot.57.1.29. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

The purpose of this paper is to analyze ways of perceiving, knowing, and being with others while engaging in qualitative and ethnographic research. As occupational therapists acquire research expertise and embark on research trajectories, they bring their clinical legacy into the research arena. The ability to conduct qualitative and ethnographic projects may require a reconfiguration of the clinical gaze of occupational therapists. This transformation is complex and also involves acquiring and adopting a stance that alters relational and interpersonal processes and results in new ways of seeing and being. I draw upon experiences in training, mentoring, and supervising therapists who embark on ethnographic research, as well as my own research practices, to illustrate points of intersection and divergence between the clinical gaze and ethnographic lens. Artistic metaphors are also used to highlight aspects of the interactional and intersubjective processes intrinsic to ethnographic practices. I argue that ethnographers are continually evaluating and negotiating their stance in the field. The clinician who becomes an ethnographer faces unique challenges to his or her stance in the midst of moment to moment encounters as well as over time in the course of prolonged engagement.

Lawlor, M. C. (2003). The significance of being occupied: The social construction of childhood occupations. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 57, 424-434. doi:10.5014/ajot.57.4.424. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

The purpose of this paper is to explore theoretical and developmental foundations for interpreting children’s engagement with activity in the typically social worlds of childhood. Drawing upon longitudinal ethnographic data, I argue for the need to reframe the study of childhood occupation to the study of “socially occupied beings” as a means of enhancing our understanding of children’s experiences. The focus is on childhood experiences that are socially constructed through adult and child co-created action sequences. The unit of analysis is constructed around a child or children, their adult partners in action, the social world of engagement, and the cultural context. The interpretive focus is on acts and actors, acting in a socially constructed world. Two microethnographic examples are provided; the first relates to an observation of a mother and her children playing in a hospital corridor and the second to an occupational therapist and child engaged in jointly constructed activity within a therapy session. These segments illustrate pragmatic and conceptual understandings of the interconnectedness of social relatedness, intersubjectivity, social action, and engagement. Further development of theoretical and research models is needed to capture the essence of children as socially occupied beings, doing something with someone else that matters.

Neville-Jan, A. M., & Lawlor, M. C. (2003). Managing appearance: A qualitative study of adults with spina bifida. European Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 13, S1-S11.

Mattingly, C. F., Lawlor, M. C., & Jacobs-Huey, L. (2002). Narrating September 11: Race, gender, and the play of cultural identities. American Anthropologist, 104, 743-753. doi:10.1525/aa.2002.104.3.743. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

This article considers the September 11 tragedy as an event that has created a powerful experience—an astonishing and unthinkable "breach" from the expected and routine—that has riveted the American public and provoked personal storytelling. September 11 and its aftermath have provided an occasion for rethinking and reworking cultural identity. We explore how September 11 and subsequent events have been experienced, constructed, and narrated by African American women, primarily from working-class and low-income backgrounds. These stories, and the commentaries and discussions that surround them, provide vehicles for these women to ponder what sort of social contexts they inhabit, within what sort of subject positions they are placed, and how these may be shifting in light of the attacks and America's "War on Terrorism".

Lawlor, M. C., & Mattingly, C. F. (2001). Beyond the unobtrusive observer: Reflections on researcher-informant relationships in urban ethnography. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55, 147-154. doi:10.5014/ajot.55.2.147. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

Ethnographic research involves the creation and ongoing renegotiations of relationships between researchers and informants. Prolonged engagement contributes to the complexity as relationships deepen and shift over time and participants accumulate a substantial reservoir of shared experiences. Reflections about the relationships we have co-constructed with informants in several research projects have contributed to our identification of several critical aspects of building and maintaining researcher–informant relationships in cross-cultural research. Aspects of relationship work specifically related to conducting ethnography with children, within the communities in which researchers live, and within the practice of occupational therapy are discussed.

Mattingly, C. F., & Lawlor, M. C. (2001). The fragility of healing. ETHOS: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology, 29(1), 30-57. doi:10.1525/eth.2001.29.1.30. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

This article explores a paradox—the simultaneous cultivation and suppression of "healing dramas" by pediatric rehabilitation therapists. Dramatic moments are defined as ones in which the routine exercises and treatment activities of therapeutic practice are transformed into narrative plots. These improvisational plots involve multiple characters, risks, suspense, and above all, a heightened sense that something is at stake. Experience itself becomes the focus of attention for the patient. Based upon ethnographic research in Chicago and Los Angeles, this article offers an anatomy of two such moments, investigating not only how healing dramas are constructed between patients and healers but how and why institutional discourses and practices invite their abandonment.

Mattingly, C. F., & Lawlor, M. C. (2000). Learning from stories: Narrative interviewing in cross-cultural research. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 7(1), 4-14. doi:10.1080/110381200443571. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

This paper argues for the importance of eliciting stories when trying to understand the point of view and personal experience of one"s informants. It also outlines one approach to eliciting and analyzing narrative data as part of a complex and multi-faceted ethnographic study. The paper draws upon ethnographic research among African-American families who have children with serious illnesses or disabilities. However, it is not a report of research findings per se. Rather, it is primarily a conceptual paper that addresses narrative as a research method. Features that distinguish a story from other sorts of discourse are sketched and current discussions in the occupational therapy and social science literature concerning the importance of narrative are examined. The heart of the paper focuses on a single narrative interview and examines what we learn about the client and family caregiver perspective through stories.

Lawlor, M. C., & Mattingly, C. F. (1998). The complexities embedded in family-centered care. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 52, 259-267. doi:10.5014/ajot.52.4.259. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

The recent movement toward family-centered care, which has been propelled by the implementation of the Education for All Handicapped Children Amendments of1986, poses considerable challenges to professionals trained in client-centered models of service delivery These challenges are compounded by the fact that our understanding of family-centered care lags considerably behind our attempts to implement responsive and efficacious services. When practitioners include family members more integrally as collaborators in pediatric treatment, their perceptions about families and the nature of the therapeutic experience is afficted. In this article, we present a number ofcritical dilemmas that are based on data drawn from ethnographic research, descriptive studies, and training seminars we conducted with pediatric practitioners and parents of children with special heath care needs. These dilemmas highlight the complexities involved in building effective partnerships among all the key players, the influence of multiple cultural worlds on everyday practices, and the need to provide supports to practitioners for the emotional and social dimensions of practice. Implications for practice and future research are presented.

Lawlor, M. C. (1994). Development of a standardized telephone interview instrument. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, 13(4), 1-13. Link to full text

Munoz, J., Lawlor, M. C., & Kielhofner, G. (1993). Use of the Model of Human Occupation: A survey of therapists in psychiatric practice. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, 13(2), 117-139. Link to full text

Lawlor, M. C. (1991). Evaluating the impact of technology and innovative products within the clinical setting. OT Practice, 2(2), 74-86. Link to full text

Niehues, A., Bundy, A., Mattingly, C. F., & Lawlor, M. C. (1991). Making a difference: Occupational therapy in public schools. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, 11(4), 195-212. Link to full text

Lawlor, M. C., & Henderson, A. (1989). A descriptive study of the clinical practice patterns of occupational therapists working with infants and young children. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 43, 755-768. doi:10.5014/ajot.43.11.755. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

This investigation was designed to gather descriptive data on the clinical practice patterns of occupational therapists working with infants and young children. One hundred nineteen therapists entered the study, and 118 completed the interview, yielding a response rate of 99.4%. The therapists were highly experienced, with a mean of 9.47 years working in pediatrics. The school setting was the most common type of facility in which therapists served infants and young children and accounted for 37.3% ofthe sample. The majority of the respondents (67.8%) were members of formally identified teams. Although 80.5% ofthe therapists served very young children (aged birth to 12 months), no therapists served this population exclusively. Considerable variability in models ofservice provision, team structures, and assessment and treatment practices were found. Additionally, there was a lack of consensus on the unique contributions of occupational therapy and diverse opinions regarding the importance of selected frames of reference. Implications of the findings on professional initiatives to enhance practice are discussed.

Ostrow, P. C., Lawlor, M. C., Joe, B. E., & Johnson, M. (1988). Efficacy data brief: Intensive multidisciplinary rehabilitation of stroke patients increases independence, decreases living costs, study shows [Review of Stroke: Does rehabilitation affect outcome?]. Efficacy data brief: Intensive multidisciplinary rehabilitation of stroke patients increases independence, decreases living costs, study shows [Review of Stroke: Does rehabilitation affect outcome?], 3(3), 1-3.

Other Articles

Lawlor, M. C., & Cada, E. A. (1993). Evaluation of an innovative product: Easy Street Environments, Inc. OT Practice, 4(3), 1-18. Link to full text

Research Reports

Lawlor, M. C., & Cada, E. A. (1994). The UIC Therapeutic Partnership Project. Final report. Washington, DC: Early Education Program for Children with Disabilities, US Department of Education. Link to full text Abstract →← Abstract 

This interdisciplinary inservice training project at the University of Illinois at Chicago was designed to improve early childhood occupational and physical therapy services by developing, implementing, evaluating, and disseminating a comprehensive training model. The competency-based program was designed to address the developmental needs of practitioners, from foundational skills to advanced practice competencies. The program allowed therapists who were working to remain in the provider pool while enhancing their skills. Participants collaborated with project faculty and clinical supervisors in developing individualized learning contracts. Foundational Level therapists enrolled in a lecture series and completed an extensive supervised practicum. Training at the Enrichment Level included completion of a continuing education program involving didactic sessions and videotape case analyses. Advanced Level training addressed highly specialized competencies that required practicum experiences supervised by qualified practitioners. Follow-up activities for participating therapists included seminar meetings emphasizing faculty and peer review. Appendices contain competency statements; a parent advisory committee report; the Individual Learning Plan; various evaluation forms; a reprint of an article by Mary C. Lawlor and Elizabeth A. Cada titled "Partnerships between Therapists, Parents, and Children"; and results of a survey of 276 occupational and physical therapists in Illinois. A participant's guide titled "Forming Partnerships with Families" is also provided. It includes information and exercises for a self-paced, video-based course dealing with the family, interpersonal relationships, the multidiscilinary conference meeting, and development of the Individualized Family Service Plan. The participant's guide is accompanied by three videotape recordings.

Ostrow, P. C., Lawlor, M. C., & Joe, B. E. (1988). Efficacy data brief: Research supports efficacy of sensory integration procedures. [Review of sensory integration theory: Affect or effect]. American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

Ostrow, P. C., Lawlor, M. C., Joe, B. E., & Johnson, M. (1988). Efficacy data brief: Outpatient stroke therapy improves functional ability, reduces deterioration, investigation suggests. [Review of remedial therapy after stroke: A randomized controlled trial]. American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

Ostrow, P. C., Lawlor, M. C., Joe, B. E., & Johnson, M. (1988). Efficacy data brief: Use of splints and pressure garments in related to decrease incidence of contracture and surgery in burn patients. [Review of ten years of experience in managing patients with burn contractures of axilla, elbow, wrist, and knee joints]. American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

Reviews

Lawlor, M. C. (1989). [Human development for occupational and physical therapists]. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 9(2), 141-142. doi:10.1080/J006v09n02_10. Link to full text

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USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
1540 Alcazar Street, CHP 133
Los Angeles, CA 90089-9003
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The USC entry-level master's degree program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE). ACOTE c/o Accreditation Department, American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.®, 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3449, (301) 652-6611 x2914, acoteonline.org

Professional program graduates are eligible to apply for certification by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc.® www.nbcot.org

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