Kris A. Barnekow, Ph.D., OTR/L

Associate Professor

[Image] Kris Barnekow

Enderis Hall, Room 979
Phone: (414) 229-7151
Fax: (414) 229-5100


Occupational Science & Technology


  • Ph.D., Kinesiology, Therapeutic Science Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2003
    Dissertation Title: Mother-infant reciprocity: Infant adaptive mechanisms contributing to the dance
  • M.S., Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1995
  • B.S., 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, Dr. Barnekow has served families of children enrolled in services through Milwaukee County’s Birth to 3 Program. Dr. 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 Dr. 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 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 Dr. 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. She 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.

Recent Publications

Original Research

Poskey, G., Pizur-Barnekow, K., & Hersch, G. (2013). Parent response to infant crying: Contributing factors of the reciprocal interaction. Journal of Occupational Science. DOI:10.1080/14427591.2013.79066

Rhyner, P. M., Guenther, K. L., Pizur-Barnekow, K., Cashin, S. E., & Chavie, A.L. (2013). Child caregivers’ contingent responsiveness behaviors during interactions with toddlers within three day care contexts. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 34(4), 232-241.

Pizur-Barnekow, K., Muusz, M., Karpinski, C., O’Connor, E., & Cutler, A. (2012, November). Service coordinators’ perceptions of autism-specific screening and referral practices in early intervention. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education [Epub ahead of print].

Pizur-Barnekow, K., Kamp, K., Cashin, S. (2012). An investigation of maternal play styles used during the co-occupation of maternal-infant play. Journal of Occupational Science.  Available online. doi:10.1080/14427591.2012.724379

Pizur-Barnekow, K., Darragh, A., & Johnston, M. (2011). “I cried because I didn’t know if I could take care of him”. Toward a taxonomy of interactive and critical health literacy as portrayed by caregivers of children with special health care needs. Journal of Health Communication, 16, 205-211.

Pizur-Barnekow, K., Rhyner, P. M., Doering, J., & Patrick, T. (2011). An interdisciplinary approach to health literacy for education, research, and practice in early childhood intervention. Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, 18(2), 62-67.

Rizk, S., Barnekow, K., & Darragh, A. (2011). Leisure and Social Participation and Health-Related Quality of Life in Caregivers of Children With Autism. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health. DOI: 10.3928/15394492-20110415-01

Rizk, S., Pizur-Barnekow, K., & Darragh, A. (2011). The relationship between leisure and social participation and perceived health status in caregivers of children with autism. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health. DOI: 10.3928/15394492-20110415-01

Pizur-Barnekow, K., Patrick, T., Rhyner, P., Cashin, S., & Reentmester, A. (2010). An investigation of the readability of early intervention program literature. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, DOI: 10.1177/0271121410387676

Pizur-Barnekow, K., Erickson, S., Johnston, M., Bass, T., Lucinski, L., & Bleuel, D. (2010). Early identification of developmental delays through surveillance, screening and diagnostic evaluation. Infants and Young Children, 23, 323-329.

Pizur-Barnekow, K. (2010). Maternal health following the birth of an infant at high risk: Setting the context for evaluation of co-occupational performance. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64, 642-649.

Pizur-Barnekow, K., Patrick, T., Rhyner, P., Folk, L., & Anderson, K. (2010). An investigation of the accessibility of the Individualized Family Service Plan. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 30(3), 248-258. doi: 10.3109/01942631003780869.

Doering, J., & Pizur-Barnekow, K. (2010). Community-based maternal mental health screening. Nursing Outlook, 58(2), e9.

Pizur-Barnekow, K., Doering, J., Cashin, S., Patrick, T., & Rhyner, P. (2010). Functional Health literacy and mental health in urban and rural mothers of children enrolled in early intervention programs. Infants and Young Children, 23(1), 42-51.

Persch, A., Pizur-Barnekow, K., Cashin, S., & Pickens, N. (2009). Physiological Characteristics of Solitary Occupations and Co-occupations: Measuring Heart Rate Variability for Occupation-Based Research. Journal of Occupational Science, 16,163-169.

Pizur-Barnekow, K. & Knutson, J. (2009). A comparison of the personality dimensions and behavior changes that occur during solitary and co-occupation. Journal of Occupational Science, 16, 157-162.

Pizur-Barnekow, K., Kraemer, G. W., & Winters, J. M. (2008). Infant vagal reactivity and visual behavior during play and object perception. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62, 198-205.

Review Papers or Articles

Pizur-Barnekow, K. & Erickson, S. (2011). Perinatal Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Implications for Occupational Therapy in Early Intervention Practice. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 27, 126-139.

Pizur-Barnekow, K., Rhyner, P., & Lund S. (2010). The pipeline training program in maternal and child health: Interdisciplinary preparation of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 14, 422-429.

Pizur-Barnekow, K., Frolek Clark, G., Werner DeGrace, B., Petry, J., Rhodes, D., Schefkind, S., Tomchek, S., Wagman, L., Wolfe, B., (2009). FAQ: What Is the Role of Occupational Therapy in Early Intervention? Available online through the American Occupational Therapy Association. Retrieved December, 2009. *Invited participant of early intervention workgroup.

Pickens, N. D. & Pizur-Barnekow, K. (2009). Editorial: Co-occupation special issue. Journal of Occupational Science, 16, 138-139. *Invited co-editor to the special issue about co-occupation.

Pickens, N. & Pizur-Barnekow, K. (2009). Co-occupation: Extending the dialogue. Journal of Occupational Science, 16, 151-156.

Pizur-Barnekow, K. (2007). Exploring ordinary childhood occupations through community partnerships. Occupational Therapy in Healthcare, 21, 51-60.

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