Social interaction as part of activity can encourage more frequent participation in exercise by children with Down syndrome


The authors of this study were interested to explore the barriers that might exist to enabling children with Down syndrome to do the recommended amount of daily physical activity. They were also interested to explore what might be facilitators to physical activity for this group.

They carried out in-depth interviews with 20 parents (16 mothers, 4 fathers) of children with Down syndrome aged between 2 and 17.
Analysis of the content of the interviews revealed four themes on facilitators of physical activity which were

  • the positive role of the family
  • opportunity for social interaction with peers
  • structured accessible programmes with adaptations for children with Down syndrome
  • children who were determined to succeed and physically skilled.

They also identified four themes related to the barriers to physical activity which were

  • characteristics commonly associated with Down syndrome
  • competing family responsibilities
  • reduced physical or behavioural skills
  • lack of accessible programmes.

The authors conclude from their results that the role of families in determining how much physical activity children with Down syndrome undertake is clearly important. They recommend future research concentrates on methods of encouraging physical activity, for example ensuring social interaction is part of the activity and on ways to eliminate the barriers to physical activity found in the study

They suggest that implementing such strategies could encourage more frequent participation in exercise by children with Down syndrome, resulting in a more physically active lifestyle.

Identifying the barriers and facilitators to participation in physical activity for children with Down syndrome, Barr, M. & Shields, N, in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55:1020–1033.


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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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