Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Kinesiology and Physical Education


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Pamela J. Bryden, PhD

Advisor Role

Supervised all aspects of the dissertation

Second Advisor

Paula C. Fletcher, PhD

Advisor Role

Supervised all aspects of the dissertation


Physical activity (PA) is a necessary component of wellbeing for individuals with and without disabilities. Disabled young people experience many barriers to PA, resulting in inactive lifestyles that compound health issues and hinder their full participation in schools and communities. The following dissertation includes a literature review regarding the effects of PA for young people with a variety of developmental disabilities, in addition to three research studies examining community-based PA programming, and one study exploring the lived experiences of caregivers, all within the Region of Waterloo.

The first study was a needs assessment to examine PA perceptions, practices, barriers, and facilitators for young people within the Region of Waterloo collected via survey data. The second study examined the lived experiences of mothers raising autistic children through one-on one interviews. Finally, the third and fourth studies were pilot research about an inclusive PA program for disabled young people to determine whether the program affected their wellbeing. Study three examined the program as a whole, while study four examined the experiences of one particular child. The implementation guide has been provided at the end of this dissertation to provide more context regarding the specific activities within the program.

Together, these four studies provide a greater understanding of PA for disabled children, specifically the relationships between PA and caregivers’ perceptions of PA for their disabled children, barriers and facilitators to inclusive PA in the Region of Waterloo, and how an inclusive PA program influences disabled young people. The implications of this research are practical, by not only identifying directions for future research, but also providing information to organizations regarding community-based programming.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Kinesiology Commons