Child Health and Education Laboratory

General Laboratory Description

Dr. King directs the Child Health and Education Laboratory, which focuses on children with chronic illness, specifically those with SCD or brain tumors. In addition, Dr. King currently directs the Heartland and Southwest Sickle Cell Disease Network, a partnership with SCD care providers and community organizations to improve overall care and quality of life in patients with SCD in an eight-state region that includes Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.

Current research projects include:

  • Environmental impact on children with chronic illness
  • Studying the relationship between maternal mental health and child development among children with SCD
  • Development and/or validation of assessments of participation and quality of life of infants and toddlers 0-48 months old
  • Development and implementation of a transition program for adolescents with SCD
  • Qualitative analysis of focus group sessions to better understand the needs of patients with SCD
  • Assessing the effects of SCD on cognition, functional task performance, and health literacy in adolescents and adults
  • Dissemination and implementation of standardized cognitive assessments for adolescents and young adults with SCD
  • Investigating the consequences of hearing loss on cognitive late effects in brain tumor survivors

General Description of Student Activities

Students are expected to complete at least one hypothesis-driven project focusing on either children or adults with SCD or children with brain tumors. Projects could be a retrospective study or a cross-sectional, prospective study. The results will focus on educational and functional outcomes. OTD students may publish a manuscript by the end of the final year. Most of the research will be completed at St. Louis Children’s Hospital or at the Program in Occupational Therapy building. Students may occasionally need to drive if their project involves home interviews or community education programs. Some studies may involve evening or weekend research.

Examples of Projects

  • Evaluate the effects of home environment and parental stress on developmental outcomes of children with SCD
  • Develop relationships with community associations to address educational attainment for children with chronic diseases
  • Assess effectiveness of an educational video about SCD
  • Educate adolescents with chronic illnesses to improve independent living skills and facilitate transition from pediatric to adult health care and independent living
  • Validate an activity card sort for infants and toddlers, 0-48 months old
  • Assess cognition, functional task performance, and health literacy in adolescents and adults with SCD utilizing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toolbox, Weschler Abbreviated Scales of Intelligence (WASI-II), Executive Function Performance Test (EFPT) and Weekly Calendar Planning Activity (WCPA)
  • Qualitative analysis of focus group interviews with patients and families dealing with SCD

PhD mentor information

For the past 10 years, Dr. King has investigated factors that influence cognitive and educational outcomes of children with SCD. Her lab is one of the first in pediatric hematology to focus on parenting and the family's social environment. Dr. King and her associates have reported that the family environment has an equal, if not greater, impact on cognition and educational attainment of this vulnerable population. She collaborates with a multidisciplinary team to study cognitive and educational outcomes of students with SCD and contributes to assessments and interventions to improve educational outcomes of this vulnerable population.

Dr. King has also been a site investigator on interventional trials to study the effect of chronic blood transfusions and hydroxyurea on reducing central nervous system injury and improving functional outcomes in patients with SCD. In future studies, Dr. King will continue to evaluate cognitive outcomes of children who undergo stem cell transplant.

Research foci

  • Improving the implementation of evidence-based care for children with SCD
  • Improving the implementation of evidence-based survivorship care for survivors of cancer
  • Identifying the educational needs of adolescents with SCD as they transition from pediatric to adult health care and to independent living and exploring how to best meet those needs
  • Determining the role environment plays in the development of children with SCD in relation to the disease itself
  • Determining the best methods of early intervention and parenting education to improve cognitive and academic outcomes for young children with SCD

Current PhD students

Allison L'Hotta, OTD, OTR/L

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Current, future and accepted applicants are encouraged to visit. We also welcome people who are exploring career options and considering occupational therapy. Dr. Kathy Kniepmann, one of our faculty members, opens our visit sessions with an informal presentation and discussion, followed by a tour that’s led by one of our current occupational therapy students.

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Call Dr. Kniepmann at (314) 286-1610
or Robin Hattori at (314) 286-1653