In Memoriam: Claudia Kay Allen MA, OT, FAOTA (1942-2019)

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Claudia Kay Allen, one of the great thinkers and theorists of the occupational therapy profession, passed away on February 25, 2019 in Glendora, California, after a long illness.

Claudia was one of a group of dedicated therapists who, in the early 1960’s, recognized the need to address the cognitive challenges faced by persons with mental disorders who were being unfairly blamed for behavioral and functional problems.  She dedicated her professional career to developing theoretically based assessments and interventions grounded in systematic observational data for addressing cognitive limitations impacting occupational performance and meaningful participation in daily activities.  She also passionately advocated for empathic understanding of the needs and perspective of persons with cognitive problems who she felt were often misunderstood. As part of this process, she has been recognized by AOTA for introducing the concept of functional cognition and functional cognitive assessments to the practice of occupational therapy. The theoretical framework and assessments she developed with many colleagues over the course of decades have become known as the Cognitive Disabilities Model.  Today this theoretical and evidence-supported model and assessments guide occupational therapy practice with persons with cognitive limitations and disabilities in a variety of practice settings such as mental and behavioral health, physical rehabilitation, productive aging and dementia, and developmental disabilities.

Claudia will be remembered for her great vision, intellect, and passionate advocacy for the rights of individuals with cognitive disabilities to experience their Best Ability to Function in satisfying and successful activities whatever the complexity of their impairments.

The Allen Cognitive Group/ACLS & LACLS Committee looks forward to continuing her vision and this advocacy by promoting access to educational and practice resources for use by practitioners, educators, and researchers who serve the needs of clients with cognitive disabilities.

Position on the ACLS-6

The Allen Cognitive Group/ACLS and LACLS Committee, a 501c3 not-for-profit charitable organization established in 2008 publishes the Manual for Allen Cognitive Level Screen-5 and Large Allen Cognitive Level Screen-5 (Allen, Austin, et al., 2007), produces the associated assessment tools, and makes these  assessment items available to therapists around the world through our website,, and our vendor partners. The ACLS-5, LACLS-5 and the new Disposable LACLS-5 (LACLS-5[D]), developed for persons requiring infection control precautions, are standardized, evidence-based assessments of functional cognition. These assessments generate scores which are interpreted using the cognitive disabilities model’s (CDM) theory and the Allen scale of cognitive levels and modes of performance (Allen, 1985; Allen & Blue,1998; Allen, Blue, & Earhart, 1995; Allen, Earhart, & Blue,1992; McCraith, Austin, & Earhart, 2011; McCraith & Earhart, 2018; Earhart & McCraith, 2020).  Clinical use of the CDM and related assessments is supported by 50 years of theory development, clinical expertise, and existing published research, as well as current research being conducted or in the process of being published nationally and internationally.  The national and international academic, clinical, and research OT community consider use of the three forms of the 5th version of the ACL Screen Test and the supporting theory and research to be “best practice.”  Our ongoing commitment to supporting best practice includes: 1) completing the trademark status for the three forms of the 5th version of the ACLS tools (2020) 2) updating the current Manual for the 5th version of the ACL Screen Test (Fall 2020) to include the LACLS-[D], a theory section, current research, and additional case studies;  and 3) maintaining a website that offers resources to support practitioners, educators, students, and researchers who use the CDM and related assessments.   

Claudia Allen left the Allen Cognitive Group/ACLS and LACLS Committee in 2014. At the time of her passing in 2019, she was developing a for-profit, subscriber-only app based on a significant paradigm shift in theory, assessment, and intervention. It includes an assessment called the ACLS-6 which consists of a plastic form shaped like the LACLS stitching tool, as well as additional activities. These items are only available to subscribers through the website ACDMweb.

The Allen Cognitive Group/ACLS and LACLS Committee neither endorses nor supports this endeavor at this time. A more complete development of the new theoretical paradigm and the new ACLS-6 assessment with evidence to support them is needed.  We continue to honor Claudia Allen’s legacy and the work of other dedicated practitioners who have contributed to the development of the cognitive disabilities model for the benefit of persons with differing cognitive abilities, their families and caregivers, through the mission of our not-for-profit organization, the Allen Cognitive Group/ACLS and LACLS Committee. 


Allen, C. K. (1985). Occupational therapy for psychiatric diseases: Measurement and management of cognitive  disabilities. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company.

Allen, C. K., & Blue, T. (1998). Cognitive disabilities model: How to make clinical judgments. Bethesda, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association.

Allen, C. K., Blue, T., & Earhart, C. A. (1995). Understanding Cognitive Performance Modes. Ormond Beach, FL: Allen Conferences, Inc.

Allen, C. K., Earhart, C. A., & Blue, T. (1992). Occupational therapy treatment goals for the physically and cognitively disabled. Bethesda, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association.

Allen, C. K., Austin, S. L., David, S. K., Earhart, C. A., McCraith, D. B., & Riska-Williams, L. (2007). Manual for the Allen Cognitive Level Screen-5 (ACLS-5) and Large Allen Cognitive Level                       Screen-5 (ACLS-5). Camarillo, CA: ACLS and LACLS Committee.

Earhart, C. A., & McCraith, D. B (2020). Cognitive disabilities model: Allen Cognitive Level Screen–5 and Allen  Diagnostic Module (2nd Edition) assessments. In B. Hemphill and C. Urish (Eds.),             Assessments in occupational therapy mental health: An integrative approach (4th ed., pp. 179-210)Thorofare, NJ: Slack, Incorporated. 

McCraith, D. B, Austin, S. L., & Earhart, C. A. (2011). The cognitive disabilities model in 2011. In N. Katz (Ed.) Cognition, occupation, and participation across the life span (3rd ed., pp. 383-406).               Bethesda, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association. 

McCraith, D. B, & Earhart, C. A. (2018). Cognitive disabilities model: Creating fit between functional cognitive abilities and cognitive activity demands. In N. Katz and J. Toglia (Eds.), Cognition,                  occupation, and participa­tion across the life span (4th ed., pp. 469-497). Bethesda, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association.

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