Equip for recreation: a collaborative problem-solving approach for increasing inclusive participation of children with disabilities in organized community-based recreation
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Recreation is one of the most significant childhood occupations and participation in meaningful inclusive recreational activities is the right of all children. However, children with disabilities report not participating in their preferred activities, such as team sports, individual physical activities, and athletics (Shields & Synnot, 2016). This limitation is further complicated by caregivers, most often parents, not having the time and resources to support their child’s meaningful participation in community-based inclusive programs and address the environmental and social barriers they encounter. To date, there is limited research literature specific to children with disabilities who reside in rural areas and the reported barriers are relative to all children in this context, with or without an identified disability (Robinson, Wakely, Marquez, & Rae, 2018; Wakely, Langham, Johnston, & Rae, 2017). Geographical distance of programs and facilities, financial barriers and resources, as well as the designed infrastructure, such as sidewalks and playgrounds for physical activity, are more problematic and limited in rural areas compared to urban communities (Robinson et al., 2018; Wakely et al., 2017). Often, living in a rural community limits the number of available recreational choices and makes it challenging to find a program that is suitable for a child with a disability. On a positive note, the literature highlights a number of malleable environmental factors, suggesting that a shift from targeting specific skill deficits of the child to intervention approaches that focus on modifying the activity and/or the environment would promote greater meaningful participation. This project draws on the existing literature to propose the evidence-based program, EQUIP for Recreation. The overall aim of EQUIP for Recreation is to increase inclusive participation of children with disabilities in community-based organized recreation programs, specifically in rural communities. The program design includes a 5-hour day caregiver education course and training consultation, utilizing evidence-based elements of a participation and environment adaptation approach (Imms et al., 2016; Kramer, Helfrich, et al., 2018; Law, Anaby, Imms, Teplicky, & Turner, 2015). The long-term goal of this project is to contribute an evidence-based health and wellness community population program for occupational therapy practitioners working in rural communities.