Implementing physical activity programs in communities for children with neuro-disabilities


  • William McKellin
  • Lois McNary
    Special Olympics BC
  • Jean-Paul Collet

Executive sponsor:

  • Matt Herman
    BC Ministry of Health

Parents of up to 60,000 children with neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) in BC are searching desperately for interventions that could improve their child’s condition with the profound desire to reach normal communication and integration. Previous work has found that attending community-based physical activity programs (PAPs) improves motor performance, cognitive functioning, social integration, emotional well-being and daily functioning for children with NDD. Families also became more resilient by developing social PAP-related networks. The same studies, however, also showed huge variations in coaching practice and gaps with regard to best practice.

This project will involve the implementation of an evidence-informed, goal-oriented coaching approach to optimize the health benefits of community-based PAPs for children with NDD. The development of the coaching intervention is funded by Kids Brain Health Network.

The community-based PAP sites for children and their families provide contexts in which to tailor coaching supports, examine community implementation and KT processes and support long-term sustainability.

The implementation intervention for this project will involve coach and parent training, the development of a community of practice for coaches and parents to support sustainability, and the establishment of an evaluation process related to both implementation and its proposed outcomes.

Over three years, this research will examine PAP implementation at over 80 sites in BC, including rural and Indigenous communities. Employing the CIHR iKT framework, strengths and barriers for PAP implementation will be assessed, and research will be conducted on the best ways to involve stakeholders, educate coaches and parents, and develop efficient communication processes. An analysis of cost-effectiveness will provide insight into the benefits of different approaches.

If successful, this project will lead directly to:

  1. A PAP implementation model with precise methodology, processes and tools to guide future implementation in other settings.
  2. A community of practice to support a PAP provincial network.
  3. Capacity building in the communities in which the PAP intervention is implemented.
  4. More equitable services to remote communities, including Indigenous communities.
  5. Better engagement of Indigenous communities around a neglected problem.
  6. Improved health and educational outcomes for both children with NDD and their parents.