The Experience of Physical Activity and Adolescents with Cerebral Palsy
Roth, Jeannine DeBerry
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For adolescents with cerebral palsy (CP), participating in physical activity (PA) can be difficult due to functional limitations that not only affect an adolescent’s ability or willingness to participate in PA but also create particular social concerns. One of the major social concerns is acceptance by peers. Other factors that affect participation in PA include fatigue, lack of energy and decreased coordination (Buffart et al., 2009). As a result, research in the area of PA and adolescents with CP is limited. This research study will utilize hermeneutic phenomenology to gain a more comprehensive understanding of their lived experiences with PA. Hermeneutic phenomenology allows for interpretation of the interviews of the fourteen participant’s stories. The interpretations of each participant allowed for common understandings and themes to be identified. The common understandings identified were: (a) developmental tasks of typical adolescents, (b) place of friends, (c) purpose of PA, (d) importance of support, and (e) wanting to be like the primary researcher. Each of the common understandings are important in interpreting the lived experiences of adolescents with CP as they participate in PA. Most of the 14 participants had similar experiences within the identified common understandings and themes. As health care providers it is important to know why adolescents participate in PA. PA in part helps adolescents find out about themselves and their place within their community. The experiences of adolescents with CP and PA show that participation in PA is a way to connect with friends, meet new people and most importantly provides a feeling of freedom from their disability. Disabled sports programs facilitate a connection with others and provide a safe environment for the participants to gain fitness and feel acceptance within their community. This research study provides health care providers a starting point to talk about PA and help adolescents with CP find activities within their community.