To determine whether contact over 8 weeks with a person with disability benefits physiotherapy students' attitudes toward disability and their development of professional behaviours and skills.
Sixteen adults with Down syndrome were matched with 16 physiotherapy students (13 women, 3 men; mean age 22.5 [SD 3.0] years) and randomized to either an 8-week, twice-weekly walking programme or an 8-week, once-weekly social activities programme. Students completed the Interaction with Disabled Persons scale, the Community Living Attitudes scale, and the Barriers to Exercise scale and rated their competency in professional behaviours and skills.
There were no differences between the groups for any outcome. Across both groups, students showed positive changes in attitudes toward disability, self-ratings of professional behaviours, and confidence in working with people with disability.
After an 8-week programme, physiotherapy students reported being more comfortable with and having more confidence in working with people with disability. These data support the idea that contact with people with disability in community settings has positive benefits for physiotherapy students, regardless of the content of the experience.