A frame of reference (FOR) is a set of ideas that determines how problems are identified and solved in occupational therapy practice. A FOR uses information from one or more theories and organizes it into an appropriate guideline, making it practical and useful for practice. This guideline helps assess occupational performance issues and offers a structure for imagining and initiating a suitable intervention. The FOR provides the theoretical basis to explain underlying performance issues and how improvement in function will occur throughout therapy. When working with clients, the ultimate goal is to improve occupational performance or the person's ability to function.
There are many different frames of reference. Let's briefly look at a couple of examples.
- Biomechanical FOR: Postulates that the underlying issues in function are related to the skeletal and muscular systems. This FOR can assist with motor skill acquisition for people who experience a limited range of motion or inadequate muscle strength.
- The Sensory Integration FOR: was developed by Jean Ayres to explain the processing and integration of sensory information and its importance in behavioural adaptation.
- Cognitive-Behavioural FOR: theorizes that each person's thoughts and beliefs are shaped and developed through life experiences and influence their behaviour.
- Ecological Adaptation FOR: postulates that the environment is primarily responsible for occupational performance issues and that changing physical or social aspects of the environment will improve performance-related outcomes.
- Neurodevelopmental Treatment FOR: assumes that movement patterns are learned and can be altered through the facilitation of typical movements for people with neuromotor challenges.
- Biopsychosocial FOR: recognizes that performance breakdowns are caused by multiple factors, including the person, their activities and their environment.
Reference: Kramer, Paula, and Jim Hinojosa. Frames of Reference for Pediatric Occupational Therapy. Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010.