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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, Volume 49, Issue 8, September 1995, Pages 780-786.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.5014/ajot.49.8.780. Copyright © American Occupational Therapy Association


This qualitative study was conducted to explore and describe the role experience of five women whose lives were disrupted by a traumatic spinal cord injury and who later returned to their communities after completing intensive rehabilitation programs. In-depth interviews and participant observations were used to examine the experiences of these women. The findings exemplify how the women's use of adaptation and negotiation and the development of a new role as self-advocate facilitated the reestablishment of their life roles. As the women's occupational roles were redefined, the processes of adaptation and negotiation were evident in three aspects of their lives: daily routines, relationships, and environment. Through their new role of self-advocate, architectural and attitudinal barriers were negotiated and adapted so that roles could be explored. These findings indicate that community reentry involves the ongoing process of negotiation and adaptation of life roles. The use of life histories during the rehabilitation phase is suggested as a way for therapists to develop meaningful treatment plans that stimulate patients' adaptation process and ultimately enhance community reentry.

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