Skip to main content

Project: Health promotion interventions in adolescents with physical disabilities- Phase 2

 Centre for Leadership in Participation and Inclusion

Centre for Leadership in Participation and Inclusion



  • Kristen English
  • Amy McPherson
  • Michelle Peters
  • Dolly Menna-Dack
  • Joanne Lee
  • Vicki Keith

What was this study about?

Adolescence is a time of growth and development, but youth often develop poor eating habits and become less active during this time. Programsaimed at promoting healthy lifestyles in adolescents (‘health promotion programs’)exist but often exclude individuals with disabilities. Our research team wanted to find out how to develop a health promotion program specifically for adolescents with disabilities.

In our first phase of the study (2015-2016), we collected information from studies that had already been conducted and asked professionals across Canada about health promotion initiatives for adolescents with disabilities. In Phase 2(2016-2017) we used this information to engage youth and parents, collecting further information to guide the development of a health promotion protocol.

What did we do?

We conducted two separate semi-structured, focus groups with adolescents with disabilities within a workshop format at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and the YMCA Kingston. This allowed the youth to share past and current experiences, successes, and barriers to participation in health promotion activities. This approach also allowed participants to take part in and reflect upon a range of interventions(e.g., group activities, environments, learning strategies, etc.) based on the key findings identified in Phase 1 of this study.

Parents of workshop participants were invited to complete a survey to share their perspective on their son/daughter’s participation in health promotion activities and ideas for future program development.

Impact for clients, families and clinical practice

The design of a 10-weekcommunity-based program for high school students with disabilities based on the input of youth, families, clinicians and researchers.

What did we learn?

From the youth perspective we learned:

Desired areas of focus for health promotion programs:

  • Emotional wellness (mood, coping with stress, feeling supported)
  • Improving physical fitness and/or muscle strength
  • Knowing what physical activity options there are
  • Maintaining healthy body weight
  • Socializing and making friends

Factors that influence engagement in health promotion activity:

  • Affordability
  • Timing
  • Facility Access/Comfort
  • Age appropriate
  • Equipment
  • Awareness
  • Activity-specific knowledge and skills
  • Family & peer support

From the parent perspective we learned:

Factors to consider when developing health promotion programs for adolescents with disabilities:

  • Inclusivity through support of individual needs
  • Engaging activities to inspire and motivate
  • Opportunities for success and confidence building

Next steps?

  • Implementing pilot programinToronto, Ontario(Oct-Dec2017)
  • Post pilot program evaluation (Jan-Mar 2018)
  • Support community organizations and children’s treatment centre’s in adoption of program in regions across Ontario (2018)