Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Explaining Physical Activity in Children with Visual Impairments: A Family Systems Approach

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Explaining Physical Activity in Children with Visual Impairments: A Family Systems Approach

Article excerpt

Promotion of habitual physical activity in children is a concern of many interested in preventing the development of risk factors for heart disease later in adulthood (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 1996). Physical activity is also important as a preventative measure for other adulthood diseases such as osteoporosis. For instance, Bloomfield (2005) recommends that efforts to promote bone health through physical activity should begin as young as age 8. Improved quality of life, increased attention, psychological health, and even the development of basic functional living skills are further believed to be related to maintaining a regimen of appropriate levels of physical activity (Sallis & Patrick, 1997; Tomporowski, 2003). However, in light of all the perceived benefits of physical activity, studies demonstrate that children do not engage in adequate levels of physical activity to promote healthy lifestyles (DHHS). In individuals with disabilities, inactivity is especially an issue of concern given the need for adequate fitness levels to complete many functional tasks.

The need for heightened levels of fitness in order to navigate barriers found in both home and community settings is important for children and adults with visual impairments (Kobberling, Jankowski, & Leger, 1989). This is a critical mobility issue for children given the need for independence in daily living activities that increases with age and becomes a necessity during adulthood. In addition, issues of mobility within the larger community are a concern later in adulthood if individuals who lack vision rely on public transportation (which may or may not be accessible depending on fitness levels needed to independently reach bus stops). In all, it is imperative that adequate levels of physical activity are encouraged in children and adolescents with visual impairments to facilitate independence into adulthood. The following study is an initial investigation using a family systems framework of activity levels in a select group of children and adolescents with visual impairments.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND CHILDREN WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS

To date, most research done with children with disabilities reveals that they are at greater risk to be inactive (Hogan, McLellan, & Bauman, 2000; Kozub, 2003; Longmuir & Bar-Or, 2000). The nature or type of disability is important in determining the risk of inactivity and potential development of other health and personal problems. Sacks and Wolffe (1998) reported in their study of three individuals that two of the participants with visual impairments spent more time at home by themselves because they were not allowed to travel on their own because of overprotective parents. This puts children with visual impairments at risk for issues related to overdependence as well as inactivity. Longmuir and Bar-Or reported in their investigation that children with physical and sensory disabilities are at particular risk of sedentary lifestyles. Further, physical activity patterns indicate that although adolescents with visual impairments demonstrate a similar trend in decreased physical activity with age, consistent with nondisabled peers, the rate of decline is steeper for the former group (Kozub & Oh, 2004; U.S. DHHS, 1996).

Currently, the status of physical activity patterns of children with visual impairments and determinants are not sufficiently documented. Access to physical education, recreation, and athletic programs may be limited for individuals with visual impairments because of instructional, as well as community barriers and a general lack of opportunity (Kozub & Porretta, 1998; Lieberman, Wilson-Houston, & Kozub, 2002). Children with visual impairments have significantly lower levels of habitual physical activity, consider themselves less fit relative to peers, and report more limitations for physical activity participation that may be explained by mobility and orientation issues (Lieberman & McHugh, 2001; Longmuir & Bar-Or, 2000). …

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