The experiences of children with visual impairment participating in physical activities: An occupational perspective
Date of Award
Edith Cowan University
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Jodie Cochrane Wilkie
Background: Despite health initiatives, children with visual impairment experience lower rates of participation in physical activities. Furthermore, Australian children with visual impairment are underrepresented in existing research. Most existing research has focused on different populations of children with visual impairment and suggest physical activities have the potential to be beneficial, but there are multiple barriers to participation. This thesis aimed to explore children with visual impairments experiences of participating in physical activities.
Methods: A multi-stage study was designed which included a questionnaire, interviews with children with visual impairment and their parents, and case-studies of two children with visual impairment participating in a new physical activity. The data collected through these methods answers the questions; what physical activities do children with visual impairment participate in; what were the benefits or effects of participating in physical activities; what were the barriers, enablers and overall experiences of participating in physical activities for children with visual impairment.
Results: In total 38 families returned questionnaires which represented 42 children, out of the 317 Western Australian families with children with visual impairment contacted. Of these 38 families, 22 consented to a follow-up interview. Twenty parents (one parent), 2 couples (both parents), and 20 children with visual impairment were interviewed. Following this, two families not previously involved in the study nominated their children to participate in case studies following their engagement in a new physical activity across a 6-month timeframe.
Results found that the physical activities with the highest number of participants were swimming, school physical education, play equipment and walking. Initial engagement in physical activities was often driven by the child's choice, their skills to safely participate and supportive parents. Discussions indicated that physical activities had the potential to improve the child with visual impairments' confidence, independence, understanding of important life lessons and pride. Additionally, participation could develop skills in physical, social, and behavioural domains. Children with VI also experienced multiple barriers to engagement including restrictions in their vision, the presence of additional disabilities, physical/cognitive fatigue, age, restrictions of daily activity/routine, finances, negative experiences, features of the physical and social environments. Parents and children with visual impairment also discussed factors which assisted participation including the presence of a resilient, confident personality; younger age; interest; support from family, friends, and community. Examination of case-studies found that participating in physical activities positively influenced children with VI and their parents' roles, interests, skills, engagement in physical and social environments.
Conclusions: The information presented through this study provides a voice to Australian children with visual impairment. It represents a comprehensive review of all stages of participation. The results confirm that Australian children share aspects of their experiences with children with visual impairment from other countries such as barriers around restrictions in vision, and the influence of the social environment. Other findings are unique including discussions of factors which initiated engagement in activities and the case studies of children with visual impairment. The increased understanding of experiences allows health initiatives to develop effective strategies to support participation in physical activities.
Access to this thesis is embargoed until 11th January 2024.
Clements, T. C. (2023). The experiences of children with visual impairment participating in physical activities: An occupational perspective. Edith Cowan University. Retrieved from https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/2615