Examining best practices for implementing inclusive physical activity programs for youth with and without disabilities: Parent and staff perspectives


Despite the benefits of physical activity (PA), inactivity rates among Canadian youth (with and without disabilities) are of great concern. Inclusive PA programming is one strategy to improve PA participation among youth, yet research examining the characteristics of successful inclusive programming targeting this population is limited. Therefore, this study qualitatively examined the perspectives on best practices for designing and implementing an inclusive, community-based PA program from two key stakeholders – parents of inactive youth with or without disabilities and community PA programmers. Individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents (n=6) (2 with youth with disabilities), and staff involved in current inclusive PA programs (n=5). Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and subjected to a thematic analysis. Parents of youth both with and without disabilities reported that engaging and encouraging staff members were the primary factor for successful programs. Additionally, a non-competitive environment that fosters goal-setting, fitness/sport skill development, and offers appropriate activities were listed by parents and staff as additional components of successful inclusive PA programs. Parents and staff alike discussed the value of recruiting through parents and local schools; social media, although popular among youth, may not be suitable for recruitment. Staff also highlighted that equipment availability and training resources are limitations for inclusive programming. Parents and staff emphasized that fitness is a focus for this population, which should be reflected in the program curriculum. These preliminary findings provide feedback for the development of future inclusive PA programs for youth as well as contributing to the limited research on inclusive PA programming.