Date of Award


Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Candace Peterson,

Second Advisor

Holly Grieves


The realm of pediatric care is witnessing the rapid emergence of two innovative practices centered on nurturing safety within a child's nervous system. This program development endeavors to synergize these practices to optimize occupational balance within the familial unit. The first pioneering approach involves Neurodiversity (ND) affirming care, which is seamlessly integrated into therapy sessions. Here, therapists honor and embrace the diverse nature of each child's brain, while acknowledging and celebrating their unique abilities. The second innovative practice involves caregiver coaching sessions, with a primary focus on educating caregivers about co-regulation techniques. Previous research has highlighted the efficacy of such sessions, particularly in enhancing caregiver efficacy within adoptive or foster family dyads. In an effort to extend the benefits of this approach to a broader pediatric population, an 8-week coaching session program was initiated at an outpatient pediatric facility. Throughout these sessions, caregivers are equipped with strategies and support mechanisms designed to respect and accommodate the nervous systems of both the child and the caregiver. The mixture of these two approaches has yielded promising outcomes for nuclear-style families, with caregivers reporting heightened feelings of support, validation, and increased confidence in their ability to engage in co-regulation practices with their children in their daily routines.


Carissa Heestand Capstone Project & Experience