Physical Activity Guaranteed. Survey of participation in physical activity and sport and the leisure time of children and young people with disabilities
Tiina Hakanen & Sami Myllyniemi & Mikko Salasuo(eds.)
This report discusses the experiences of children and young people with disabilities regarding leisure activities and focuses on physical activity and sport in particular. The report is a continuation of the Study of children's and young people's leisure activities that was published earlier in 2019. The central theme of this study is participation in physical activity and sport. The purpose of the report based on this survey is to produce information on the group of about 15 per cent of children and young people in Finland whose participation in leisure activities involves certain challenges due to their disabilities. There are only a few existing research data on this subject, so it has been difficult to consider the needs of children and young people with disabilities in the planning of youth and sport policy.
In 2017, one of the objectives set by the Finnish Government was that every child and young person will be given a possibility to engage in at least one free-time hobby of their choice. This is known as the “hobby guarantee” and it has been actively promoted within the government. At the beginning of 2019 the Ministry of Education and Culture published its Strategy for Leisure Activities for children and young people . The equal treatment and equality of children and young people is highlighted in the Strategy for Leisure Activities, which is also the case in sport and youth policy. According to the objectives, all children and young people should therefore be guaranteed the same opportunities to participate in leisure activities.
The results of this survey show that disabilities affect participation in physical activity and sport in many ways. A smaller share of children and young people with disabilities said that they participate in physical activity and sport compared with their peers who do not have similar impairments. The disabilities also affect the regularity of participation in physical activity and sport and the amount of strenuous exercise.
Children and young people with disabilities essentially have similar motives for participating in physical activity and sport as those in the Study of children's and young people's leisure activities. The activity must be fun and produce feelings of happiness and achievement and be a way of making friends while participating in a pleasant leisure activity. Competitive and top-level sport goals were secondary factors.
Children and young people with disabilities were experiencing bullying, discrimination and inappropriate behaviour in the physical activity and sport much more frequently than the respondents in the basic sample. The proportion of those experiencing inappropriate behaviour was 38% of the children under the age of 13 and 55% of those who were 13–17 years of age. According to the responses, children and young people with disabilities also experience inappropriate behaviour by grown-ups in their physical activity and sports hobbies.
Disabilities also pose a challenge in other leisure activities. One of five of the respondents to the survey for the separate sample did not have any hobbies and they were further away than other children and young people from the government objective in which each child and young person has at least one hobby. However, children and young people with disabilities seem on average to be fairly satisfied with their lives (average 8.6).
The results presented in the report are consistent with the results of earlier questionnaires and surveys. Together with previous studies and in parallel with the Study of children's and young people's leisure activities, this survey provides a clearer representation of the basic situation in participation in physical activity and sport and the leisure time of children and young people with disabilities.