Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 72–84 | Cite as

Experiences Participating in Community Physical Activity by Families with a Child on the Autism Spectrum: a Phenomenological Inquiry

  • A. Josephine BlagraveEmail author
  • Andrew M. Colombo-Dougovito



Families with a child on the autism spectrum face challenges to participating in physical activity in the community. Yet, little research has examined these families’ experiences and perspectives on such participation.


This phenomenological study used semistructured interviews to collect data from 13 families with a child on the autism spectrum to understand their experiences as a family attempting to access physical activity opportunities.


Families discussed four overall themes related to participating in physical activity in the community: (1) safety outside the home, (2) lack of acceptance, (3) behavior affecting the family participation, (4) and limited opportunity for activity.


Evidence suggests that physical activity can provide tremendous opportunities to build better connections within the community and improve quality of life, but the barriers discussed by parents in the present study suggest that families and their children on the autism spectrum might not yet have the same opportunities for access or support.


Autism spectrum disorder Physical activity Family relationships Environmental barriers Accessibility 


Author Contributions

AJB led the design and execution of the present study, as well as performed the initial data analysis; she collaborated in writing the paper and editing the final manuscript. AMCD collaborated in the design and analysis of the study; he collaborated in the writing of the paper and editing the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethics Statement

Chico, California State University provided the IRB approval for the study; this study has been performed in accordance with these ethical standards. All participants gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California State University ChicoChicoUSA
  2. 2.University of North TexasDentonUSA

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