A photo of Karen Harpster.

Karen L. Harpster, PhD, OTR/L

  • Occupational Therapist III, Division of Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy
  • Member, Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disability (LEND) Program
  • Assistant Professor, UC Department of Allied Health
I specialize in evaluating and treating children with neurodevelopmental disorders, especially infants and children with cerebral palsy (CP) and cerebral visual impairment.
Karen L. Harpster, PhD, OTR/L



As an occupational therapist (OT), I specialize in evaluating and treating children with neurodevelopmental disorders, especially infants and children with cerebral palsy (CP) and cerebral visual impairment. I am a CP mentor for our occupational therapy clinicians and a team member of our multidisciplinary Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI) clinic. I am trained in a variety of assessments used for early detection of cerebral palsy, such as the General Movements Assessment (GMA) and the Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination (HINE), as well as upper extremity evaluations, including the Hand Assessment for Infants (HAI), Mini-Assisting Hand Assessment (Mini-AHA) and Assisting Hand Assessment (AHA). I implement evidence-based treatment approaches for children with CP, such as constraint-induced movement therapy, bimanual therapy, task-specific training, and environmental and activity adaptations to enhance functional vision during daily activities for children with CVI.

I became interested in working with children with developmental disabilities early in my career before becoming an OT. I observed many children who worked with occupational therapists. It was fascinating to see how the children progressed toward their goals, such as play, social skills and feeding.

I am also a clinical researcher. My research focuses on early detection and interventions for infants and children with cerebral visual impairment and cerebral palsy. Implementing interventions early, while the brain is rapidly developing and changing, leads to the best outcomes. I have studied several evidence-based interventions for these populations.

I collaborate with clinicians and researchers at Cincinnati Children's in the Divisions of Neonatology, Ophthalmology, Neurology, and Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, to name a few. Additionally, I am a lead investigator on several multi-site projects, both nationally and internationally. As a researcher, I strongly believe that collaborating with other scientists leads to the best outcomes for the children we serve. We are stronger together. I am honored to have been awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from The Ohio State University (2018).

I am a faculty member for the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disability (LEND) Program and have a faculty appointment with the University of Cincinnati. I enjoy mentoring trainees and students in the research process to share my passion for research with the next generation.

PhD: The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 2011.

Masters in Occupational Therapy: The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 2006.

BA in Psychology: LaSalle University, Philadelphia, PA, 1999.


Evaluation and treatment for children with neurodevelopmental disorders with a large focus on infants and children with cerebral palsy and/or cerebral visual impairment; treatment approaches such as constraint-induced movement therapy; children with cerebral visual impairment; assessments used for early detection of cerebral palsy, such as the General Movements Assessment (GMA) and Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination (HINE).

Services and Specialties

Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy


Developing research and clinical programs for prevention and early treatment for infants at high risk for cerebral palsy and those with cerebral visual impairment; quality improvement projects to implement early detection of cerebral palsy and cerebral visual impairment.

Insurance Information

Cincinnati Children's strives to accept a wide variety of health plans. Please contact your health insurance carrier to verify coverage for your specific benefit plan.

View Insurance Information


Toward Removing Barriers in the Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Care of Individuals With Cerebral Visual Impairments. Lueck, A; Harpster, K; Hartmann, E; Tracy, HS C; Jones, M; Legge, R; Kran, B; Ravenscroft, J; Bauer, CM. 2023; 10:296-307.

"Even though a lot of kids have it, not a lot of people have knowledge of it ": A qualitative study exploring the perspectives of parents of children with cerebral/cortical visual impairment. Oliver, H; Seccurro, D; Dorich, J; Rice, M; Schwartz, T; Harpster, K. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 2023; 135:104443.

Interventions for children with cerebral visual impairment: A scoping review. Delay, A; Rice, M; Bush, E; Harpster, K. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. 2023; 65:469-478.

Functional goals and intervention planning in children with cerebral visual impairment. Schwartz, T; Harpster, K; Liveccae, A; Middlecamp, C. Journal of American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. 2022; 26:e30-e31.

Exploring the Need for Education on Cortical Visual Impairment Among Occupational Therapy Professionals and Teachers of Students With Visual Impairments. Harpster, K; Hamilton, S; Lusk, KE; Seastone, AM; Fox, AE; Rice, ML; Schwartz, T. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. 2022; 116:451-460.

Magnetic resonance spectroscopy brain metabolites at term and 3-year neurodevelopmental outcomes in very preterm infants. Illapani, VS P; Edmondson, DA; Cecil, KM; Altaye, M; Kumar, M; Harpster, K; Parikh, NA. Pediatric Research. 2022; 92:299-306.

Restricted Eating in Preschoolers with Autism: Mother Stressors and Solutions. Burkett, K; Haggard, ML; Van Rafelghem, D; Harpster, K. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 2022; 52:2589-2597.

An iPad-based intervention to improve visual-motor, visual-attention, and visual-perceptual skills in children with surgically treated hydrocephalus: A pilot study. Harpster, K; Weckherlin, N; Engsberg, JR; Powell, SK; Barnard, H; Kadis, D; Dodd, JN; Garrett, ML; Mangano, FT; Limbrick, DD; et al. Child's Nervous System. 2022; 38:303-310.

Brain microstructural antecedents of visual difficulties in infants born very preterm. Chandwani, R; Harpster, K; Kline, JE; Mehta, V; Wang, H; Merhar, SL; Schwartz, TL; Parikh, NA. NeuroImage-Clinical. 2022; 34:102987.

Association between brain structural network efficiency at term-equivalent age and early development of cerebral palsy in very preterm infants. Kline, JE; Yuan, W; Harpster, K; Altaye, M; Parikh, NA. Neuroimage. 2021; 245:118688.

Patient Ratings and Comments

All patient satisfaction ratings and comments are submitted by actual patients and verified by a leading independent patient satisfaction company, NRC Health. Patient identities are withheld to ensure confidentiality and privacy. Only those providers whose satisfaction surveys are administered through Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center are displayed. Click here to learn more about our survey

Overall Patient Rating