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Shanon Phelan, PhD, MSc, BSc

Assistant Professor

Rehabilitation Medicine

Occupational Therapy

About Me


Post-doctoral Fellowship- Childhood Disability- Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital- 2012-2013

PhD- Health and Rehabilitation Sciences- Western University- 2012

MSc- Occupational Therapy- Western University- 2005

BSc Human Kinetics- University of Guelph- 2002

Background Information

  • Post-doctoral research examined intersections of disability, normalization, rehabilitation, and technology through the lens of critical social theory.
  • PhD Dissertation examined socio-cultural dimensions of occupation and identity from both parents’ and children with disabilities’ perspectives. Also explored opportunities for participation and inclusion in home, school, and community environments.
  • Upon graduation as an occupational therapist, practiced in school health, pediatric community, and adult community contexts.
  • Joined the U of A faculty July 2013.


Research Interests

Dr. Phelan’s program of research focuses on understanding and improving participation, inclusion, and social justice for children who experience disability and their families. Dr. Phelan is also interested in disability studies, child culture, and constructions of childhood, disability and identity. She engages critical qualitative approaches to achieve her research objectives including innovative reflexive and visual methods that promote ethics and integrity in research with children. 

Dr. Phelan is co-director (with Dr. Sandy Hodgetts) of the Supporting Kids Inclusion & Participation (S.K.I.P.) Lab in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta. Dr. Phelan is a research affiliate at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and an Assistant Adjunct Professor at the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre, University of Alberta.

Current Research Initiatives

  • ReEnvisioning inclusion: Exploring child culture with children with disabilities (SSHRC, PI)
  • The loneliness crisis and the decline of free play: Pathways and effects (SSHRC, Co-I)
  • Disclosing their child’s diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder to others: Family processes and perceived outcomes (WCHRI, Co-PI)
  • Engaging children with disabilities as co-researchers: Innovation in methodology and methods (VPR SSHRC, PI)
  • Toward an inclusive and supportive clinic-school interface: A qualitative study of children's and families' experiences (FRM, PI)



Kassi Boyd, MA

PhD student Rehabilitation Medicine, Research Assistant

Research Interests: experiences of (in)dignity, relational ethics, inclusion in child-driven culture, reflexivity, qualitative research with children and famillies


Alisa Doell, MSc OT

PhD student Rehabilitation Medicine, Research Assistant

Research Interests: ethical practice, clinical ethics, relational ethics, reflexivity, qualitative research


Erin Duebel, MSc OT

PhD student Rehabilitation Medicine, Research Assistant

Research Interests: critical social theory, the body and social theory, intersectionality theory, qualitative research  


Linda Osae, MSW, RN

PhD student Rehabilitation Medicine, Research Assistant

Research Interests: social determinants of health, health systems and services, sociocultural perspectives, qualitative research


Paige Reeves, MSc OT

PhD student Rehabilitation Medicine, Research Assistant

Research Interests: critical disability studies, discourse analysis, participatory methods, social inclusion and belonging, disability and identity, and disability and the transition to adulthood


Alex Jackman, MD, FRCPC, General Pediatrics 

Subspecialty Resident, Developmental Pediatrics 

Research Interests: children and disability, identity and disability, family-centered care, participatory research, qualitative research 



Natalie Ball

MSc OT Student, Scholar Stream

Research Project: Natalie is using critical discourse analysis to explore how disability, gender, and violence are constructed within Alberta policy and legislation related to violence against women.


Alexandra England

MSc OT Student, Scholar Stream

Research Project: Alex is using a critical disability studies lens to explore the experiences of parents to children with disabilities in public spaces, including their experiences of disabilism and how they negotiate family identity and belonging.


Nicole Farmer

MSc OT Student, Scholar Stream

Research Project: Nicole is using qualitative methods to investigate facilitators and constraints to children’s free and risky outdoor play including parental tolerance of risk and perceived social threats.



Meghan Harris, MSc OT

Research Assistant

Research Interests: school-based practice, social inclusion, inclusive education, qualitative research with children and families



Dr. Phelan is the instructor for REHAB 599 Qualitative Inquiry: Philosophical Foundations and Contemporary Approaches, OCCTH 507 Occupation and Society: Theory and Practice, and OCCTH 699 Advanced Topics in Occupational Therapy Research and Practice I & II.