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Kris A. Barnekow, PhD, OTR/L

Associate Professor


Ph D Therapeutic Science University of Wisconsin-Madison 2003
MS Human Learning and Development University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 1995
BS Occupational Therapy University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 1986

Speaker Topics

  • Early intervention
  • Health literacy
  • Social-emotional screening for parents and children with special health care needs
  • Infant mental health.

Interests & Expertise

As an experienced occupational therapist, Kris Barnekow has served families of children enrolled in services through Milwaukee County’s Birth to 3 Program. Barnekow’s clinical experience provided her with an understanding of the importance of family empowerment and navigation through systems of care. For that reason her research has focused on health promotion and disease prevention strategies for parents and children who have special health care needs.

A primary concentration of Barnekow’s research is the promotion of optimal developmental outcomes through early identification of social emotional disorders in mothers and young children. Collectively, the findings of her research indicate that mothers of children with special health care needs who reside in urban areas are more likely to screen positive for depression and perinatal posttraumatic stress disorder.

Even though the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend screening in community settings to detect maternal and child social emotional disorders, early intervention providers are currently not incorporating this evidence into practice. Consequently, screening of mothers and children remains relatively low in early intervention settings.

Another focus of Barnekow’s research program is health literacy. As such, she is part of an interdisciplinary team that has investigated the readability of early intervention program

literature and the health literacy skills of parents who have children enrolled in early intervention programs. While parents of children enrolled in Birth to 3 possess adequate functional health literacy; many parents/caregivers of children with special health care needs continue to have difficulty navigating multiple systems of care. This may be partially due to poor written and oral communication skills of their providers, which negatively affects the parents’ interactive health literacy abilities.

Barnekow aims to collaborate with scholars who have a shared interest in investigating the relation between health literacy concepts, early identification of social emotional disorders and promotion of optimal outcomes for children with special health care needs.

Selected Publications

Stoffel, A., Ramsdel, K., & Pizur-Barnekow, K. A. (2016). Occupational Therapy and the primary service provider model in early intervention. OT Practice a Publication of the American Occupational Therapy Association, 21(6), CE 1-8.
Muhlenhaupt, M., Pizur-Barnekow, K. A., Schefkind, S., Chandler, B., & Harvison, N. (2015). Occupational Therapy Contributions in Early Intervention: Implications for Personnel Preparation and Interprofessional Practice. Infants and Young Children, 28(1), 123-132.
Pizur-Barnekow, K. A., Nash, J., Wendel, S., & Chopper, M. (2015). A case study in infant mental health. Cahill, S., & Boyer, P. (Eds.). Thoroughfare, NJ/Slack: Cases in pediatric occupational therapy: Assessment and intervention.
Rizk, S., Pizur-Barnekow, K. A., & Darragh, A. (2014). Quality of life in caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder. Patel, V. B., Preedy, V. R., & Martin, C. R. (Eds.). , 223-246. New York/Springer: Comprehensive guide to autism.
Haertlein Sells, C. A., Barnekow, K. A., & Plach, H. (2014, April (2nd Quarter/Spring)). Occupational Science and Technology Annual Newsletter.
Wilson, L., Pizur-Barnekow, K. A., & Schefkind, S. (2014). An online survey examining practitioners’ perceived preparedness in the early identification of autism. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, e13-e20.
Pizur-Barnekow, K. A., Doering, J. J., Willett, M., Ruminski, C., & Spring, M. (2014). Birth-related post-traumatic stress disorder: Implications for early intervention services. Zero to Three, 34, 41-45.
Hildebrand, K., Lewis, J. J., Pizur-Barnekow, K. A., Shefkind, S., Stankey, R., Stoffel, A., & Wilson, L. S. (2013, December). FAQ: How can occupational therapy strive towards culturally sensitive practices?.
Rhyner, P. M., Guenther, K. L., Pizur-Barnekow, K. A., Cashin, S. E., & Chavie, A. L. (2013). Effects of context on child caregivers’ contingent responsiveness behaviors during interactions with toddlers within three day care contexts. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 34(4), 232-241.
Poskey, G., Pizur-Barnekow, K. A., & Hersch, G. (2013). Parent response to infant crying: Contributing factors of the reciprocal interaction. Journal of Occupational Science.
Pizur-Barnekow, K. A., Muusz, M., Karpinski, K., O’Connor, E., & Cutler, A. (2012). Service coordinators’ perceptions of autism-specific screening and referral practices in early intervention. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 33(3), 153-161.
Pizur-Barnekow, K. A., Kamp, K., & Cashin, S. E. (2012). An investigation of maternal play styles used during the co-occupation of maternal-infant play. Journal of Occupational Science.
Pizur-Barnekow, K. A., Patrick, T. B., Rhyner, P. M., Cashin, S. E., & Rentmeester, A. (2011). Readability of early intervention program literature. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 31(1), 58-64.
Rizk, S., Barnekow, K. A., & Darragh, A. (2011). Leisure and social participation and health-related quality of life in caregivers of children with autism. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health.

Recent Funded Grants

Academic Partner/Consultant
Submission date: October, 2012. Status: Awarded 2/28/2013
Title: Engaging African-American Fathers to Reduce Infant Mortality by Improving their Health Literacy.
Community Partner: Planning Council of Health and Human Services and the Medical Society of Milwaukee County.

Wisconsin LEND: Milwaukee Link Site Project Coordinator – Wisconsin LEND: Milwaukee Link.
Status: Awarded 5/01/2013
Title: Specialized interdisciplinary training for graduate students in Maternal and Child Health. Subcontract.
Program Director: Anne Harris, Waisman Center. Clinic director: Bonnie Klein-Tasman.

Discipline Coordinator – UW-Milwaukee Pipeline Training Initiative.
Status: Awarded 6/5/2011
Title: Training grant supporting interdisciplinary pre-service training in Maternal and Child Health.

Research Partners

  • David Pate, Associate Professor, Helen Bader School of Social Welfare
  • Katie Pritchard, President and CEO, Planning Council for Health and Human Services
  • Dr. George Morris, Medical Society of Milwaukee County

Honors & Awards

AOTA service commendation (2011) American Occupational Therapy Association.