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The Feasibility of Collecting Salivary Cortisol for a Collaborative University- Public School Recreational Therapy Program

Kirstin L. Whitley, Susan E. Lynch, Catherine L. Franssen, Lindsey S. Sparrock


The purpose of this study was to determine whether sali-vary cortisol sampling would be a feasible effectiveness outcome measure for a community-based RT program serving children with disabilities. The program utilized in this study provides weekly RT interventions in three 10-week cycles over an 18-month period for 62 children aged 3-21 enrolled in a local public school special edu-cation program. Salivary cortisol sampling, a biomarker for stress response, was collected via bioswab pre/post-intervention on weeks 1, 6, and 10 of each cycle. In or-der to determine feasibility, the collection rate, measur-ability, and comparability of saliva samples were tracked over the study period. The first goal of collecting 75% of the possible cryovials was not met due to an actual col-lection rate of 56%. Participant absence was found to be responsible for 62% of the uncollected cryovials. How-ever, of those collected, 95% were measurable and 77% were comparable, which met the second prediction of achieving measurable samples as a rate of 50% or bet-ter. Researchers deemed cortisol sampling as feasible as correcting collection errors, which caused 17% loss of the overall possible sample, will allow for an adequate sample size for statistical analysis in future studies. 

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Children with disabilities; feasibility; recreational therapy; salivary cortisol

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