Susan Spitzer, PhD, OTR/L
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Clinical
Room: CHP 133
Phone: (323) 442-2850
Susan Spitzer has been a licensed occupational therapist since 1996, and is an expert in clinical care and research within pediatrics, autism and sensory integration intervention. Her research and writing have concentrated on autism, sensory integration, play, learning disabilities, and occupational therapy, and she has been awarded the American Occupational Therapy Association Cordelia Myers Writer’s Award. She has practiced in early intervention programs, public and private schools, hospitals, and private practice. The cornerstone of her private practice is a play-based approach, informed by occupational science. Dr. Spitzer also specializes in using a sensory integration approach. She is certified to use the Interactive Metronome®. Her private practice focuses on children with various developmental concerns such as learning disorders, autism, ADHD, sensory processing/integration disorders, and fine motor/writing difficulties. She has been an instructor in the USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy intermittently since 1997.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph D) in Occupational Therapy
University of Southern California
Master of Arts (MA) in Occupational Therapy
University of Southern California
Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology
Claremont McKenna College
Kuhaneck, H. M., Spitzer, S. L., & Miller, E. (2010). Activity analysis, creativity, and playfulness in pediatric occupational therapy: Making play just right. Boston, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, LLC.
Spitzer, S. L. (2010). Common and uncommon daily activities in children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: Challenges and opportunities for supporting occupation. In H. Miller Kuhaneck & R. Watling (Eds.), Autism: A comprehensive occupational therapy approach (3rd ed., pp. 203-233). Bethesda, MD: The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.
Spitzer, S. L. (2008). Play in children with autism: Structure and experience. In L. D. Parham & L. S. Fazio (Eds.), Play in occupational therapy for children (2nd ed., pp. 351-374). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.
Spitzer, S. L. (2004). Common and uncommon daily activities in individuals with autism: Challenges and opportunities for supporting occupation. In H. Miller-Kuhaneck (Ed.), Autism: A comprehensive occupational therapy approach (2nd ed., pp. 83-106). Bethesda, MD: The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.
Spitzer, S. L., & Smith, S. S. (2001). Sensory integration revisited: A philosophy of practice. In S. Smith Roley, E. I. Blanche, & R. Schaaf (Eds.), Understanding the nature of sensory integration with diverse populations (pp. 3-27). San Antonio, TX: Therapy Skill Builders.
Parham, L. D., Cohn, E. S., Spitzer, S. L., Koomar, J. A., Miller, L. J., Burke, J. P., Brett-Green, B., Mailloux, Z., May-Benson, T. A., Smith Roley, S., Schaaf, R. C., Schoen, S. A., & Summers, C. A. (2007). Fidelity in sensory integration intervention research. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61(2), 216-227.
Objective: We sought to assess validity of sensory integration outcomes research in relation to fidelity (faithfulness of intervention to underlying therapeutic principles).
Method: We identified core sensory integration intervention elements through expert review and nominal group process. Elements were classified into structural (e.g., equipment used, therapist training) and therapeutic process categories. We analyzed 34 sensory integration intervention studies for consistency of intervention descriptions with these elements.
Results: Most studies described structural elements related to therapeutic equipment and interveners’ profession. Of the 10 process elements, only 1 (presentation of sensory opportunities) was addressed in all studies. Most studies described fewer than half of the process elements. Intervention descriptions in 35% of the studies were inconsistent with one process element, therapist–child collaboration.
Conclusion: Validity of sensory integration outcomes studies is threatened by weak fidelity in regard to therapeutic process. Inferences regarding sensory integration effectiveness cannot be drawn with confidence until fidelity is adequately addressed in outcomes research.
Spitzer, S. L. (2003). With and without words: Exploring occupation in relation to young children with autism. Journal of Occupational Science, 10(2), 67-79.
In studying young children with autism and other developmental disabilities as occupational beings, determining what constitutes occupations is challenging, in part because existing definitions of occupation do not seem to fit the children. This paper explores what is an occupation for children with autism. By integrating literature and original research, this paper provides a working definition of occupation to fit the observed lives of five young children with autism. Occupation is defined as “a set of directed actions connected by physical movements, materials, space, or purpose within a time period, in a way that is meaningful to the individual executing them”. Words are not the only mode of defining occupation. Participants also were engaged in the process of defining, or framing those occupations in the moment that they were occurring. Framing is the process of identifying what is and is not the activity and what is relevant and irrelevant. An occupational frame has two components: the observable content (i.e., behaviors, materials used, etc.) and the subjective meaning or valuing of the occupation. Joint framing is an intersubjective process in which the occupation is defined between two people, such as an adult and child, in which one person can come to understand another’s occupation. It is the in-the-moment defining, or framing of occupations that gives conceptual definitions of occupations their pragmatic relevance to daily life and clinical practice.
Spitzer, S. L. (2003). Using participant observation to study the occupations of young children with autism and other developmental disabilities. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 57(1), 66-76.
Understanding the individual meaning of daily activities for children with developmental disabilities such as autism is both important and challenging for researchers and practitioners. Rigorous participant observation offers a method for developing this knowledge base by including the child’s perspective. Through literature and examples from an ethnography of young children with autism, this article illustrates the application of participant observation to children with developmental disabilities. Specific strategies can promote valid interpretations despite developmental, linguistic, and perceptual differences between adult researchers and child participants.
Spitzer, S. L., Smith Roley, S., Parham, D., & Clark, F. A. (1996). Sensory integration: Current trends in the United States. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 3(3), 123-138. doi:10.3109/11038129609106695.
In this article, the current status of the theory and practice of sensory integration in the United States since the 1960s is described and analyzed. In order to characterize current issues in this growing field of practice, historical developments in sensory integration are examined. The following four topics are explored: theoretical constructs, research, assessment, and practice. The article identifies a trend toward understanding sensory integration within the context of an individual's daily occupations.
Spitzer, S. L. (1999). Dynamic systems theory: Relevance to the theory of sensory integration and the study of occupation. Sensory Integration Special Interest Section Quarterly, 22, 1-4.
Clark, F. A., Gordon, D. M., Mandel, D., McDannel, R., McDonald, A., Meltzer, P., Scroggins, B., Spitzer, S. L., & Young, B. (1996). Occupational science. In Infusing occupation into practice: Comparison of three clinical approaches in occupational therapy (Proceedings of the Education Special Interest Section of the American Occupational Therapy Association, 1996). Bethesda, MD.