Deirdre Dawson

Associate Professordeirdre-dawson
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Senior Scientist, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest

(416) 785-2500 x 2136


School of Graduate Studies
  • Member – Accepting MSc. and PhD. Students
Cross Appointments
  • Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Sciences
  • Collaborative Program in Neuroscience
  • Associate Member, Heart and Stroke Foundation Centre for Stroke Recovery
  • Adjunct Scientist, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute

Dr. Deirdre Dawson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Science, & Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto, a Senior Scientist with the Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Health Sciences, Toronto, an Adjunct Scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and a member of the Canadian Partnership in Stroke Recovery. She is a licensed occupational therapist in Ontario, Canada and was inducted into the American Occupational Therapy Foundation’s Academy of Research in 2014. Dr. Dawson’s research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, Quebec Rehabilitation Research Network and the Canadian Partnership in Stroke Recovery. Her scholarship focuses on understanding how cognitive processes in acquired brain disorders and aging affect people’s abilities to be autonomous in community living and on developing and evaluating effective interventions that promote participation in every-day life. Her work spans from ecologically valid assessment of cognitive impairments to occupationally based cognitive rehabilitation approaches to investigating the benefits of community support programs.

Research Interests
My research is concerned with optimizing occupational performance, that is, enabling persons to do the day-to-day activities they want to do in adults and older adults with cognitive impairments (particularly executive function impairments) arising from stroke, acquired brain injury and aging. My interests are in determining the factors that contribute to successful outcomes and in designing and testing rehabilitation programs that use these. I am also interested in characterizing the impact of executive function impairments in everyday life through the use of naturalistic, ecologically valid assessment and am pursuing research to understand how our interventions can be informed by errors made in performance and by strategies used in situ.
Selected PublicationsAll PublicationsKeywords
  1. Dawson, DR, Anderson, ND, Binns, MA, Bottari, C, Damianakis, T, Hunt, A, Polatajko, H, & Zwarenstein, Z. (in press). Managing executive dysfunction following acquired brain injury and stroke: A trial protocol for an ecologically valid rehabilitation approach. Trials.
  2. Bottari, C., Lam Wai Shun, P., Le Dorze, G., Gosselin, N., & Dawson, D., (in press). Self-generated strategic behavior in an ecological shopping task. American Journal of Occupational Therapy.
  3. Hunt, A, LeDorze, G, Trentham, B, Polatajko, H, & Dawson, DR. (In press). Executive function, self-regulation and attribution in acquired brain injury: A scoping review. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation.
  4. Dawson, DR, Richardson, J., Binns, M., Troyer, A., Polatajko, H., Bar, Y., Schweizer, T., & Winocur, G. (2013). Managing age-related executive changes with ecologically valid strategy training: A randomized controlled trial. Clinical Rehabilitation. Online First.
  5. Dawson, DR., Binns, M., Hunt., A., Lemsky, C., Polatajko, H,. & Skidmore, E. (2013). Occupation-based strategy training for adults with traumatic brain injury: A pilot study. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. Online First.
  6. Ng, E., Polatajko, H., Marziali, E., Hunt, A., Dawson, D. (2013). Addressing Executive Dysfunction After Traumatic Brain Injury: A Pilot Tele-Rehabilitation Study. Brain Injury, 27(5), 548-564.
  7. Poulin, V., Korner-Bitensky, N., & Dawson, D. (2013). Executive function assessment post-stroke. Australian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 60(1), 3-19.
rehabilitation, occupational therapy, cognition, executive function, community integration
Recent Thesis/Projects Supervised
  1. Inter-professional clinical practice guideline for vocational evaluation following traumatic brain injury. Mary Stergiou-Kita (PhD), 2011.
  2. Relationships between changes in coping behaviours and community integration at 6 and 12 months after traumatic brain injury. Erxun Li (MSc), 2012.
  3. Oops – that was a mistake. Improving performance of routine tasks. Cassandra Burns & Nicole VanRuymbeke (MScOT), 2012.
  4. Characterization of executive dysfunction in real world tasks: Analysis of behaviors performed during the completion of the Multiple Errands Test. Sidrah Arshad (MSc), 2011.
  5. Making plans – guided discovery in in CO-OP for adults with acquired brain injury. Courtney Brennan & Rachel Morrison (MScOT), 2011.
  6. Early identification of mild traumatic brain injury. Andrew Ryu (MSc), 2008.
Current Courses
  • OCT1261H: Enabling occupation in adults. Part 1 (Course Coordinator and Instructor)
Special Lectures / Keynote Speeches
  1. Optimizing stroke rehabilitation for individuals with cognitive impairment. Invited discussant for symposium at American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. November 2013, Orlando, Florida.
  2. Assessment and management of executive dysfunction. Invited workshop. Canadian Stroke Congress. October 2013. Montreal, Que.
  3. Innovative approaches to cognitive rehabilitation for stroke and small vessel disease. Invited talk. Satellite Symposium, 6th Annual VAS-COG Conference. June 2013. Toronto, Canada.
  4. Contextually-relevant methods for assessing executive functions after stroke. Invited talk. American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine Pre-Conference Course on Innovations in Stroke Rehabilitation. October 2012. Vancouver, BC.
  5. Interventions for Improving Executive Function, Invited workshop at the Canadian Stroke Congress. September 2013.  Calgary, Alberta.
  6. Naturalistic and Contextual Approaches to Assessment and Intervention in Rehabilitation for Adults with Traumatic Brain Injury. Keynote Address. University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre Institute of Rehabilitation and Research, Annual Research Symposium. June 2010. Pittsburgh, USA.
  7. Management of mild brain injury. Keynote address. WHO Collaborating Centre & Hong Kong Hospital Authority 3rd CEPA conference on Collaborative Care for People after Brain Injury. June 2009. Hong Kong.