Helene Polatajko

H. Polatajko's PortraitProfessor
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Tel: 416-978-2042
Email: h.polatajko@utoronto.ca
Website: Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance (CO-OP)

School of Graduate Studies
  • Full Member
Cross Appointments
  • Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science
  • Dalla Lana School of Public Health
  • University of Toronto Neuroscience Program (UTNP)

Dr. Polatajko is an internationally respected occupational therapy scholar. She has over 300 publications, has done over 550 presentations in 21 + countries and has held over $10,000,000 in grants. Her work has focused on occupation and its enablement. Prominent among her contributions are co-authorship on both the internationally acclaimed Canadian Occupational Performance Measure and the two Enabling Occupation books and leading the creation and development of the Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance approach.

Tools Developed
  1. Townsend, E. and Polatajko, H. (2007). Enabling Occupation II: Advancing an Occupational Therapy Vision for Health, Well-being & Justice through Occupation. Ottawa, Ontario: CAOT Publications ACE.
  2. Polatajko, H. and Mandich, A. (2004). Enabling occupation in children: The Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance (CO-OP) approach. Ottawa, ON: CAOT Publications ACE.
  3. Mandich, A., Polatajko, H., Miller, L. and Baum, C. (2004). The Paediatric Activity Card Sort. Ottawa, ON: CAOT Publications ACE.
  4. Law, M., Baptiste, S., Carswell, A., McColl, M., Polatajko, H. and Pollock, N. (2005). Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (4th ed.). Ottawa, ON: CAOT Publications ACE.
  5. Bossers, A., Miller, L., Polatajko, H. and Hartley, M. (2002). Competency Based Fieldwork Evaluation for Occupational Therapists. Albany, NY: Delmar Thomson Learning.
Selected Publications
  1. Polatajko, H. J. (2012). Realizing possibilities/OTs speaking up/ Saisir toutes les possibilités – Des ergothérapeutes prennent position. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79, 3-4. doi:10.2182/cjot.2012.79.1.1 PMID:22439284
  2. Polatajko, H. J., (2011). Realizing possibilities. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 78, 271-272. doi: 10.2182/cjot.2011.78.5.1
  3. Morrison, T., Giles, G. M., Ryan, J., Baum, C., Dromerick, A., Polatajko, H. J., & Edwards, D. (accepted, Sept 2012). The Multiple Errands Test-Revised: A performance-based measure of executive function in persons with mild cerebrovascular accident. American Journal of Occupational Therapy.
  4. Blank, R., Smits-Engelsman, B., Polatajko, H., & Wilson, P. (2012). European Academy for Childhood Disability (EACD): Recommendations on the definition, diagnosis and intervention of developmental coordination disorder (long version)*. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 54(1), 54-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2011.04171.x PMID:22171930
  5. Henshaw, E., Polatajko, H. J., McEwen, S. E., Ryan, J. D., & Baum, C. (2011).  A Cognitive Approach to Improve Participation after Stroke: Two Case Studies. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65 (1), 55-63.
  6. Njelesani, J.,  Sedgwick, A., Davis, J., & Polatajko, H. (2010). The influence of context: A naturalistic study of Ugandan children’s doings in outdoor spaces. Occupational Therapy International (accepted Oct 2010).Occup. Ther. Int. (2010) © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/oti.310
  7. McEwen, S.E., Polatajko, H.J., Huijbregts, M.P.J., Ryan, J.D. (2010). Inter-task transfer of meaningful, functional skills following a cognitive-based treatment: Results of three multiple baseline design experiments in adults with chronic stroke. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation. First published on: 14 April 2010 (iFirst) To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/09602011003638194 URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09602011003638194
  8. McEwen, S.,  Polatajko, H. J., Davis, J. A., Huijbregts, M., Ryan, J. (2010).  “There’s a real plan here, and I am responsible for that plan”:  Participant experiences with a novel cognitive-strategy based treatment approach in adults living with chronic stroke. Disability and Rehabilitation. 32(7), 541-550.
  9. Polatajko, H.J., & Cantin, N., (2010). Exploring the effectiveness of occupational therapy interventions other than sensory integration therapy with children and adolescents experiencing sensory processing difficulties. American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 64 (3), 415-429.
  10. Lin, N., Kirsh, B., Polatajko, H.J., &  Seto, M. (2009). The nature and meaning of occupational engagement for forensic clients living in the community. Journal of Occupational Science.  June, 16, (2),  110-119.
  11. Dawson, DR, Gaya, A, Hunt, A, Lemsky, C, Levine, B, Lo, A, & Polatajko, H. (2009). Using the Cognitive Orientation to Occupational Performance with adults with traumatic brain injury.  Canadian Journal of  Occupational Therapy, 76 (2), 115-127.
  12. Cantin, N., Polatajko, H., Thach, W. and Jaglal, S. (2007). Developmental coordination disorder: Exploration of a cerebellar hypothesis. Human Movement Science, 26, 491-509.
  13. Davis, J. and Polatajko, H. (2006). Occupational development. In S. Rodger & J. Ziviani (Eds.), Occupational therapy with children: Understanding children’s occupations and enabling participation. (Chap. 7, p.136-154). Blackwell Science Publishers. (invited)
  14. Polatajko, H. (2001). National perspective: The evolution of our occupational perspective: The journey from diversion through therapeutic use to enablement. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(4), 203-207.
Recent Thesis/Graduate Projects Supervised


  1. Describing the Effect of Motor Ability on Visual-Motor Skill Acquisition and Task Performance in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. N. Cantin, PhD, Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science, UofT, 2012.
  2. Finding Meaning in Place: The Perspectives of People with Severe Mental Illness Living LongTerm in a Psychiatric Hospital. B. Amoroso, MSc., Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science, U of Toronto, 2011. (Co-supervised with B. Kirsh)
  3. Examining Sport-for-Development Using a Critical Occupational Approach to Research. (J. Njelesani, PhD, Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science, UofT, 2012.) (Co-supervised with D. Cameron)
  4. Using the Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance (CO-OP) Treatment Approach with Adults with Stroke:  Efficacy and Adaptations. S McEwen, PhD, Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science, UofT, 2009.
  5. “Becoming a writer: Social constructions of writing from children with cerebral palsy”. G. Teachman (MSc, Faculty of Medicine), 2006.
  6. “Developmental Coordination Disorder: Exploration Of A Cerebellar Hypothesis”. N. Cantin (MSc), 2004.

Graduate Pojects

  1. Transition into long-term care: Narratives of Chinese-Canadian families. Chui, R. & Ho, N-Y. (2012). (Co-supervised with B. Trentham)
  2. Cognitive strategy use in rehabilitation: A scoping review. Jacobs, K., & Hirji, R. (2012). (Co-supervised with J. Davis)Paediatric
  3. Activity Card Sort (PACS): Understanding children’s occupational repertoires Jutzi, K. & Pangborn, J. (2012). (Co-supervised with J. Davis)
  4. Exploring possibilities for clarifying occupational development in childhood. Patton, E. & Moolasseril, J. (2012). (Co-supervised with J. Davis)
  5. Occupation based programs for international development. Vaisberg, S. & Sangrar, R. (2012). (Co-supervised with J. Njelesani)
  6. Continuing the development of a measure of occupational engagement. Xavier, S. & Ferreira, J (2012). (Co-supervised with J. Davis)
  7. Cultural Norms And Ideals Of Children’s Occupations In Zambia, Lymer, Erin, (Co-supervised with J. Njelesani) MScOT 2010.
  8. How Does The Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test Of Visual-Motor Integration Characterize Children With Developmental Coordination Disorder, Bakker, Rachel,  (Co-supervised with N.Cantin) MScOT 2010.
  9. Clarifying Occupational Engagement: A First Step In Measurement Development Kennedy, Jennifer, (Co-supervised with J. Davis), MScOT 2010.
  10. Construction And Pilot Test Of The Occupational Engagement Scale (Oes) Robinson, Jacqueline, (Co-supervised with J. Davis), MScOT 2010.
  11. Dynamic Performance Analysis: As An Enabler For Children With Coordination Difficulies,  Hyland, Melissa, MScOT 2010.
  12. “Using the Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance (CO-OP) Treatment Approach with Adults with Stroke: Efficacy and Adaptations”. S McEwen (PhD), Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science, UofT, 2009.
  13. “Visuomotor Learning: Strategy Use and Performance in Children with DCD”. Henze, M. (Co-supervised with N.Cantin) (MScOT), 2009.“Client and therapist strategies to facilitate skill acquisition during the CO-OP treatment approach with adults with stroke”. Diana Kinslikh (co-supervision with Sara McEwen), (MScOT), 2008.
  14. “Visuomotor learning and cognitive strategies”. Madeleine Bonnard (co-supervision with Noemi Cantin), (MScOT), 2008.
  15. “Enabling children’s occupational (im)balance: The discourses of parenting magazines”. Heather Moyse (co-supervision with Jane Davis), MScOT, 2007
Research Interests
  1. Understanding occupation and its enablement, esp. models of occupational competence, development, and deprivation.
  2. Issues of measurement and related paradigms of inquiry.
  3. Assessment and treatment of children with motor learning problems, including learning disabilities and developmental coordination disorders (DCD).
  4. Cognitive-based treatment for children and adults with occupational performance challenges.
Current Courses
  • OCT 1252h: Occupational Therapy With Children: Part II
  • REH 1130: Theory and Research in Occupational Science
Special Lectures / Keynote Speeches

Key Note Address, Developmental Coordination Disorder UK Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland, June, 2012

Invited Lecture: Current Trends and Future Practice in Occupational Therapy, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Helen Polatajko: An Open Forum.  Oct 1, 2010.

Invited Lecture: Zürcher Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften (ZHAW), Winterthur,Switzerland.  Pushing the boundaries of practice: Three (Canadian) models to support occupation-based enablement.  November 2009

Mosey Lectureship, New York University, New York City, USA. The Science of Practice or Can Data Trump the Lived Experience: Lessons from SI.  March, 2008.

Key Note Speaker, EACD Conference, Vilnis, Lituania.   A Cognitive Perspective on Motor-based Performance Problems: Lessons from DCD. June, 2009.

CSOS: Inaugural Townsend and Polatajko Lectureship, Thunderbay, Ontario, Canada.  Human Occupation: The Universal Idiosyncratic. May, 2008.

Barbara Sexton Lectureship, School of Occupational Therapy, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.  Enabling Occupation: The occupational science imperative.  June 2008

Professional Development Workshops (selected)

  • Austria, November 2010
  • Italy, March, 2010
  • China, June, 2009
  • Slovenia, March, 2009
  • Switzerland, Ocotber 2008
  • Brazil, September, 2008
  • Germany, October, 2007
  • Taiwan, May 2007
  • Australia, May, 2007
  • Netherlands, March , 2007
  • USA, June 2006