CLICK HERE for latest COVID information.


Pursuing a ‘Big Dream’ Through Research and Education

March 04, 2022

Laura Zagacki, therapy manager at Good Shepherd Specialty Hospital in Bethlehem, PA

Though Laura Zagacki, MS, OTR/L, CKTP, serves as therapy manager at the Good Shepherd Specialty Hospital in Bethlehem, her passion has always been for pediatrics — pediatric occupational therapy, in particular.

An occupational therapist and Good Shepherd Associate for nearly 13 years, Zagacki is channeling her passion for pediatrics into a research project to complete her Doctorate of Health Science (DHSc) degree in Rehabilitation Science from Drexel University.

“I like to learn, so I wanted a program to advance my own knowledge that also would provide me with skills and opportunities in teaching,” says Zagacki. “The DHSc has a greater emphasis on teaching than some of the PhD programs, and also provides me with a research experience to develop my own scholarly project and execute it.”

Childhood Play and Physical Disabilities

Zagacki’s research study, “Sibling Participation in Occupational Therapy for Children with Physical Disabilities,” applies a participation-based therapy approach in the home environment and includes the siblings in goal development, assessment, interventions and outcomes.

“Siblings of children with disabilities have unique experiences different than other siblings,” says Zagacki. “Helping children with physical disabilities and their siblings participate in childhood play activities through occupational therapy is my goal through this project. Siblings have reported negative and positive experiences of living with a brother or sister with a disability, and also have an increased risk of psychological difficulties and adjustment problems.”

The sibling, the child with a physical disability and the parent all will be involved in the therapy sessions. Outcomes focus on siblings’ social participation in play activities together.


As part of her research, Zagacki is recruiting families who have a child with a physical disability between 2 and 12 years old and another child, who is typically developing, between 4 and 8 years old.

“I also wanted to compare the two families: one with a child who has a developmental physical disability with another child who has an acquired physical disability, because there is far less research on siblings in families who have a child with an acquired disability,” says Zagacki. “Children who have acquired disabilities have lived experiences, including participating with their sibling in activities, without having a disability. When a child has a newly acquired disability, the child and family adapt to the changes. This experience is different than having lived with a disability all along.”

To learn more or help Zagacki recruit a family, email [email protected] or call 484-884-5431.

Pursuing a Dream

Zagacki aims to complete her degree in 2022; it’s been six years of hard work, and completing the research project is the final step. What comes next?

“I hope to get more involved in education when I complete my degree,” says Zagacki. “Clinical education and mentoring interests me and teaching in a formal academic setting is my big dream.”