Barriers to and facilitators of physical activity for children with cerebral palsy in special education Academic Article uri icon


  • AIM:To explore the barriers to and facilitators of physical activity for young people with cerebral palsy in specialist schools. METHOD:Eleven focus groups involving 73 participants (10 young people with cerebral palsy, 13 parents of children with cerebral palsy, 27 teachers, 23 therapists) were held at two specialist schools. Focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analysed using inductive thematic analysis by two researchers, independently. RESULTS:Four main themes emerged from the focus groups: school priorities; student factors; staffing and environment; and roles and relationships. Physical activity was promoted when academic work and physical activity were seen as equally important school priorities. Student factors that reduced physical activity included fluctuating health, school absences, and protracted rehabilitation after surgery. The staffing and environment unique to specialist schools played a pivotal role in assisting students to be active, as was the importance of collaborative, relationship-based care. INTERPRETATION:Physical activity programmes developed in specialist schools need to take into consideration complexities associated with the age, developmental stage, and academic requirements of young people with cerebral palsy. Particularly for adolescents, motivation was discussed as having a substantial influence on physical activity participation. These findings may assist school leadership teams, clinicians, and teachers in planning physical activity interventions. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS:Specialist schools offer custom-built environments that promote physical activity and inclusion for students with physical impairments. Therapists and teaching staff work creatively and collaboratively to incorporate an 'all-day' approach to providing physical activity opportunities. Balancing time spent on physical activity versus academic work can cause tension.

publication date

  • 2019