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Kelly P. Arbour-Nicitopoulos, Celina Shirazipour, and Krystn Orr

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Krystn Orr, Katherine A. Tamminen, Shane N. Sweet, Jennifer R. Tomasone, and Kelly P. Arbour-Nicitopoulos

This study was guided by self-determination theory to explore the sport experiences of youth with a physical disability and the role of peers within this context. Interviews were conducted with eight youths using a relational mapping technique and analyzed using a deductive thematic approach. Sport peers were broadly defined by the youth as individuals from a large age range and of all abilities. Youth perceived their sport peers to have dynamic roles throughout their participation in sport. The perceived roles of these sport peers included supporting and thwarting basic psychological needs, and influencing the youths’ processing of sport internalization. Findings focus on the complexity of peer need-thwarting and need-supporting interactions in sport for youth with physical disabilities. Overall, peers have a multifaceted role in the sport experiences of youth identifying with a physical disability and may, in some cases, thwart youths’ basic psychological needs.

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Krystn Orr, M. Blair Evans, Katherine A. Tamminen, and Kelly P. Arbour-Nicitopoulos

For individuals with an intellectual disability, emerging adulthood (18–25 years) may be a disruptive time with an abrupt ending to programming and services after adolescence. This study critically explores the social environment and experiences of individuals involved in a Special Olympics paddling program for emerging adult athletes with an intellectual disability. Using an instrumental case study design, multiple qualitative methods were implemented including photography, videography, observations, and interviews. The participants included four athletes (one female and three male; three with autism spectrum disorder, one with mild intellectual disability), three fathers, a coach, a program coordinator, and an administrator. Analyses were guided by interpretivism and the quality parasport participation framework. The findings highlight how the limited staff training and preparation, the complexity of providing such a program, and parental hidden labor in their adult children’s sport involvement influence the social environment. Implications for coaching practices include the importance of communication strategies and coach education.

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Kelly P. Arbour-Nicitopoulos, Natasha Bruno, Krystn Orr, Roxy O’Rourke, Virginia Wright, Rebecca Renwick, Kirsten Bobbie, and James Noronha

This cross-sectional study examined experiential elements facilitating quality sport experiences for youth (ages 12–24 years) in Special Olympics, and the associated influences of sport program and sociodemographic characteristics. A total of 451 athletes involved in the 2019 Special Olympics Youth Games completed a survey assessing elements of quality participation (autonomy, belongingness, challenge, engagement, mastery, and meaning). The t tests investigated whether athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities rated elements differently across Traditional and Unified Sport programs. Regression analyses explored whether sport program and sociodemographic characteristics were predictors of these elements. Youth reported high mean scores across the elements, with no significant differences between athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Traditional or Unified Sport. Athletes with no reported disability rated higher autonomy than those who reported disability (p = .01). Women tended to report greater engagement in sport than men (p = .07). Findings provide theoretical and practical insights into quality sport participation among youth in Special Olympics.

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Kelly P. Arbour-Nicitopoulos, Viviane Grassmann, Krystn Orr, Amy C. McPherson, Guy E. Faulkner, and F. Virginia Wright

The objective of this study was to comprehensively evaluate inclusive out-of-school time physical activity programs for children/youth with physical disabilities. A search of the published literature was conducted and augmented by international expertise. A quality appraisal was conducted; only studies with quality ratings ≥60% informed our best practice recommendations. Seventeen studies were included using qualitative (n = 9), quantitative (n = 5), or mixed (n = 3) designs. Programs had a diversity of age groups, group sizes, and durations. Most programs were recreational level, involving both genders. Rehabilitation staff were the most common leaders. Outcomes focused on social skills/relationships, physical skill development, and psychological well-being, with overall positive effects shown in these areas. The best practice recommendations are consistent with an abilities-based approach emphasizing common group goals and interests; cooperative activities; mastery-oriented, individualized instruction; and developmentally appropriate, challenging activities. Results indicate that inclusive out-of-school time physical activity programs are important for positive psychosocial and physical skill development of children/youth with physical disabilities.

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Laura C. Koch, Shane N. Sweet, Kristiann E. Man, Kelly P. Arbour-Nicitopoulos, Krystn Orr, Andrea Bundon, Amy E. Latimer-Cheung, and Jennifer R. Tomasone

Community-based exercise programs for persons with disabilities promote greater quantity of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) participation among their members, perhaps because of the quality experiences fostered by the program. This study aimed to explore the relationship between quality and quantity of physical activity participation in the context of community-based exercise programming and the role that gender plays in this relationship. Adults with physical disabilities (N = 91; M age = 55, 49 men) from three community-based exercise programs across Canada completed a survey asking about quality participation (Measure of Experiential Aspects of Participation [MeEAP]) and LTPA. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the relationship between MeEAP scores and LTPA. Quality participation was not related to LTPA, even with gender included as a moderator. Men reported higher levels of LTPA and quality participation than women, highlighting gender differences that should be considered when researching and designing exercise programs for individuals with disabilities.