Background Participation in physical activity can provide important health benefits for children living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Children with ASD, however, experience increased risk of injury along with higher levels of inactivity and obesity. The increased injury risks are related social, sensory, and behavioural factors. Parents of children with ASD also express safety concerns which may influence children’s participation in activities. In light of these factors, there is a need for better understanding of the barriers and supports for children with ASD to take part in safe and active play opportunities.
Methods This project explored the views of parents and service providers about factors influencing safe and active play for children with ASD, who were 3–12 years in age and residing in the Okanagan region of British Columbia, Canada. A qualitative, ethnographic approach was used that included in-person, in-depth interviews with parents and service providers that were conducted in 2015. Data collection also included participant observation in recreation settings and review of relevant documents. Grounded theory and constant comparison was used to identify categories and major themes.
Results Parents and providers identified a range of specific child safety concerns including bolting and wandering behaviours, access to outdoor hazards, and falls and collisions during play. Barriers and supportive factors were identified at both child and family levels. At the community level, factors in the social and physical environments were seen to play key roles along with community programming and services.
Conclusions Program planning for safe recreation opportunities for children with ASD should be informed by consideration of barriers and supports at varied levels. Programs and policies that address local needs and provide secure environments can help to promote increased opportunities for active and safe play engagement for children with ASD.
- Child injuries
- physical activity
- qualitative methods
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