Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

A Theory-Based Physical Education Intervention for Adolescents with Visual Impairments

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

A Theory-Based Physical Education Intervention for Adolescents with Visual Impairments

Article excerpt

Regular physical activity participation can have a positive impact on overall health. However, school-aged individuals with visual impairments tend to be less physically active than their peers without disabilities (Haegele & Porretta, 2015). Fortunately, preliminary intervention research suggests that physical activity levels of those with visual impairments can be improved (Haegele & Porretta, 2015). For example, Cervantes and Porretta (2013), using a social cognitive theory-based intervention, examined the effect of an after-school physical activity program on adolescents with visual impairments. Their study offered a nine-lesson program to four students at a residential school over a five-week period. Results indicated that leisure-time physical activity levels were enhanced by the intervention (Cervantes & Porretta, 2013).

Social cognitive theory is considered among the most acceptable models for understanding health promotion behavior (Motl, 2007). It is a general theory of human behavior that stipulates that people are active agents in their own lives as they generate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Bandura, 2001). The model of causation which is central to social cognitive theory is triadic reciprocal determinism, which suggests that one's behavior, personal factors, and environmental influences influence each other bi-directionally (see Figure 1; Bandura, 2001; Motl, 2007). The reciprocal nature of human functioning in social cognitive theory allows researchers to direct interventions at several interrelated constructs in order to change behaviors. Common constructs exploring influences of physical activity behavior, central to the program implemented by Cervantes and Porretta (2013) and to this study, are self-efficacy, self-regulation, outcome expectancies, and social support.

The need to increase physical activity at an early age has stimulated the development of school-based interventions for all students. Research suggests that school-based interventions can successfully increase physical activity (Kriemler et al., 2011). However, few studies focusing on individuals with visual impairments have been conducted. Thus, the purpose of this study was to determine the effects of a social cognitive theory-based physical education program on the leisure-time physical activity among adolescents with visual impairments. In this study, the successful social cognitive theory-based after-school program utilized by Cervantes and Porretta (2013) was implemented as a physical education program. Within the framework of social cognitive theory and triadic reciprocal determinism, this study sought to enhance participants' personal factors (self-efficacy, outcome expectancies, and self-regulation) and environmental influences (social support) in order to impact their behavior (that is, physical activity participation).



Four participants (two males and two females), aged 15 to 17 years and attending a Midwestern residential school for blind students, were purposively sampled based on: (a) not being enrolled in another physical activity intervention, (b) not being active members of interscholastic sport, (c) having no ambulation-related disabilities, and (d) having the ability to wear Fitbit Zip devices throughout the day. Participants were selected from two physical education classes: first period (participants 3 and 4) and ninth period (participants 1 and 2). Characteristics of the participants are presented in Table 1.


The intervention was delivered during the physical education class period in either the gymnasium or the health education room. During after-school hours, participants had access to physical activity opportunities that were available to them on a regular daily basis (for example, walking in the neighborhood).


This study's intervention was modeled after an existing program, entitled "Plan for Exercise, Plan for Health" (Stevens, 2006), and previously implemented by Cervantes and Porretta (2013). …

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