Impact of Physical Activity Counselling on Children with Medical Conditions and Disabilities and Their Families

Physical activity counselling can target cognitive-affective participation barriers, but counselling benefits for children with medical conditions/disabilities were unknown. This study investigated successes, challenges, and the impact of physical activity counselling on children and their families. One-on-one semi-structured interviews were completed with 7 patients (2 male/5 female, aged 13–17) and 4 parents who participated in 2–8 weekly counselling sessions (2015–2020). Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim for inductive thematic analyses. Counselling encouraged positive mindset changes (viewing physical activity more holistically, making it “more fun and manageable”, helping them to “learn how to love moving and doing sports”). Participants felt strong support (feeling heard, validated, and provided with “hope… that we can still achieve things… even though it may seem like there’s limitations”). Counselling was viewed positively. The intent to improve active lifestyle attitudes and confidence was reflected in positive, primarily cognitive-affective (motivation for activity, “more general skills of having a positive attitude towards physical activity and the willingness to try new things”) outcomes. More sessions, additional resources to keep, and follow-up after counselling completion were recommended to support behaviour change. Future research should evaluate enhanced counselling services and comparing children who have and have not received such counselling.

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  1. Patricia Longmuir

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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