UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An exploratory analysis of parental factors related to physical activity in children living with autism McFee, Erin Marie


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience unique developmental and social challenges that place them at increased risk for injury, which can present barriers to participation in physical activities that are normally a routine part of childhood. These barriers leave children with ASD at risk of obesity, and increased amounts of sedentary activities; as well as decreased levels of physical activity and community recreation participation. For parents raising children living with ASD, finding safe and developmentally appropriate activities for their children to engage in, can be a significant source of stress. This thesis presents a quantitative exploratory analysis of data collected from parents (N=69) through the Autism and Developmental Disorders Lab (ADDL) at Simon Fraser University in 2017. Using statistical methods, this research increases understanding of factors related to parents’ decisions in providing opportunities for physical activity whilst balancing risk and safety by investigating the differences/similarities that exist between parents raising a child living with ASD, and those parents who are raising a child without ASD. Specifically this analysis explored how a child’s ASD diagnosis, and/or ASD symptoms impacts parent perceived barriers to activity, child sedentary behavior/screen time, child physical activity (outside play and activity type), parents’ perceptions of protection from injury and risk; as well as the impact on parent self-efficacy in balancing their child’s protection from injury and risk. Results indicated that parents raising a child living with ASD did not differ significantly in their perceptions of protection from injury and risk, or in their self-efficacy from parents raising a child without ASD. However, parents report that their child living with ASD was exceeding recommended daily amounts of sedentary behavior/screen time. In addition, parents raising a child living with ASD were found to experience significantly more barriers to activity participation; and were limited in the types of recreational activities that were available for their children to participate in.

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