Abigail Carroll, Ph.D., MS, OTR/L

Abigail Carroll, Ph.D., MS, OTR/L
Instructor, Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program

Female, she/her/hers, white, cisgender, heterosexual, LGBTQIA+ ally 

Occupational roles: mother, sister, and aunt; occupations: spending time with family, friends, and her dog, yoga, reading, painting, cooking, dancing, traveling, hiking, writing, meditation, and being outdoors.

Dr. Carroll is an instructor, occupational therapist, and occupational scientist. She earned her PhD in occupational science and master of science degree in occupational therapy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She joined the Duke OTD team in 2021 after completing a post-doctoral research fellowship for interdisciplinary leadership in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): Optimizing Research-Practice Partnerships for Evidence-Based Outcomes at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Dr. Carroll specializes in a process-driven intervention research methodology called Changing Criterion Designs (CCDs). Her research stems from her education and 23 years of professional experience working alongside diverse individuals and groups living with health-impacting conditions, particularly families of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Using CCDs, shared decision-making time points can be embedded into an intervention to ensure an equity-driven and culturally affirming intervention process directed by the service recipient’s goals. CCDs offer an intervention research tool for tailoring evidence-based practices to fit clients’ situational contexts by engaging service recipients in baseline logic, melding methodological rigor with socially valid service delivery. The methodology is particularly valuable for working on early relationships with families of children at risk of ASD because it can accommodate multiple interconnected participants as they mutually influence one another.   

Dr. Carroll piloted this approach with a family and their toddler at risk of ASD, analyzing the family as the unit of analysis during a two-caregiver-implemented occupation-centered coaching intervention (Carroll, 2019). The pilot study demonstrated the value of a contextualized and occupation-centered approach to intervention research by yielding improvements in the child’s performance of play, the caregivers’ satisfaction with play, and the quality of the social interactions of each family member participant. Furthermore, the process explored the value of shared participation, harvested a deeper understanding of the occupation of play for the family, and promoted a step toward neurodiversity-affirming early intervention practices.  The study piloted the type of approach recommended by Dawson et al. (2022).   

Dr. Carroll’s work translated occupational science theory to intervention research by examining how the transactional perspective (Dickie et al., 2006) is alive in practice through constructs such as occupation, embodiment, habits, growth, freedom, and equality. She is interested in replication of the study with additional family units of diverse backgrounds, with children of different ages, and addressing different occupations. However, because the process is not particular to autism, children, or families, Dr. Carroll is eager to explore collaborations moving beyond direct extensions of the pilot study that create, translate, and assemble knowledge with interdisciplinary colleagues and lead to new discoveries.

The Society has recognized her research for the Study of Occupation, the International Meeting for Autism Research, The American Occupational Therapy Association, The Occupational Therapy Summit of Scholars, and the North Carolina Occupational Therapy Association. She has publications in the Journal of Occupational Science, Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, and the SAGE Handbook of Autism Education.