Children with disabilities face challenges with accessing opportunities to play and physical activity (Owen, 2010). Statistical evidence supports the concern for the growing issue of secondary health problems related to lack of physical activity (Cooper, 1999; Council on Disabilities, 2008; Heath, 1997; National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2008; Spencer-Cavalier and Watkinson, 2010, US Department of Education, 2005). This is of further concern because of a rising incidence of disability in children (US Department of Education, 2005). This research was conducted to help provide an understanding of how children with disabilities can access play. Eleven children with moderate to severe disabilities ranging in age from 5-8 participated in this study. The children all attend a county school specializing in educating children with special needs. Data was collected during field observations on four separate dates over a two-month period, while the children were given access to the playground during recess. Play participation behaviors were observed and measured for type, frequency and duration. The types of play participation behaviors include Body Play Movement (BPM), Object Play (OP), Social/Interactive Play (SIP) and Imaginative/Creative Play, (ICP). The children were able to increase the amount of play participation time over the four observation periods in all four types of play behaviors. These findings indicate that a conducive environment will offer children with disabilities the opportunity to play. This can potentially translate into health and social benefits.


Graduate Project completed in partial fulfillment of the Master of Science in Health Sciences degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, 2012.

Faculty Advisor: Virginia Cowen, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

Preceptor: Victoria Schindler, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey