Parental perspectives on physical activity of adolescents with cerebral palsy: a pilot study

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As adolescents with cerebral palsy (CP) move into adulthood, physical activity tends to decline and they are three times more likely to develop heart disease, stroke or cancer than their able-bodied peers. While their motor function may never reach the level of able-bodied teens, improving physical activity of adolescents with CP may help them reach more optimal physical and psychosocial health. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand physical activity of adolescents with cerebral palsy from the viewpoint of their parents (n = 5). The research question was ‘How do parents of adolescents with cerebral palsy view physical activity?’. The study resulted in five themes: 1) ‘My child is unique’; 2) ‘It is not about winning, it is about being able to participate’; 3) ‘Friends motivate my child’; 4)‘We can figure it out’; and 5)‘I wish I could do more with my teen.’ Parents expressed powerlessness over their teen’s opportunities for physical activity. They reported that friends’ participation and social interaction are motivating factors for their child’s participation in physical activity. Another motivator would be linking movement to individual interests, focusing on abilities, not disabilities. An implication for practice would be to include parents in the development of physical activity programmes. Increasing empirical evidence from the viewpoint of these parents could inform nurses involved in public health, family medicine and rehabilitation about the development of programmes that would better anticipate and meet adolescent needs.

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