Physical Literacy for Children Labeled With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Mothers’ Experiences of Ableism, Exclusion, and Trauma

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  • 1 Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • | 2 University of Alberta
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Countering the declining physical activity patterns of children labeled with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has gained considerable research attention given its impact on health and quality of life. The purpose of this study was to explore how parents of children labeled with ASD understand the concept of physical literacy, based on their children’s participation in community-based physical activity programs. Using interpretive phenomenological analysis, six mothers of children labeled with ASD participated in one-on-one semistructured interviews. The conceptual framework of ecological systems theory supported the rationale for the study purpose, provided structure for the interview guide, and offered a reflexive context for interpretation. Four themes were generated from the thematic analysis: From embodied movement to normative skill expectations, Be flexible, not rigid, Systematic exclusion, and Valuable? . . . Absolutely! Despite experiences of marginalization, exclusion, and trauma within physical activity programs, mothers valued physical literacy development for their children given the positive outcomes of increasing family connections, engagement with peers, and enhanced wellness.

Pushkarenko is currently with Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, Canada. Causgrove Dunn and Goodwin are with the University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Pushkarenko (kpushkarenko@mun.ca) is corresponding author.
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