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Factors Predicting Physical Activity Among Children With Special Needs
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.5888/pcd10.120283
IntroductionObesity is especially prevalent among children with special needs. Both lack of physical activity and unhealthful eating are major contributing factors. The objective of our study was to investigate barriers to physical activity among these children.
MethodsWe surveyed parents of the 171 children attending Vista Del Mar School in Los Angeles, a nonprofit school serving a socioeconomically diverse group of children with special needs from kindergarten through 12th grade. Parents were asked about their child's and their own physical activity habits, barriers to their child's exercise, and demographics. The response rate was 67%. Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine predictors of children being physically active at least 3 hours per week.
ResultsParents reported that 45% of the children were diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, 38% with autism, and 34% with learning disabilities; 47% of children and 56% of parents were physically active less than 3 hours per week. The top barriers to physical activity were reported as child's lack of interest (43%), lack of developmentally appropriate programs (33%), too many behavioral problems (32%), and parents' lack of time (29%). However, child's lack of interest was the only parent-reported barrier independently associated with children's physical activity. Meanwhile, children whose parents were physically active at least 3 hours per week were 4.2 times as likely to be physically active as children whose parents were less physically active (P = .01).
ConclusionIn this group of students with special needs, children's physical activity was strongly associated with parental physical activity; parent-reported barriers may have had less direct effect. Further studies should examine the importance of parental physical activity among children with special needs.
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