Community Participation, Supports, and Barriers of School-Age Children With and Without Disabilities

Published:October 08, 2012DOI:



      To examine patterns of community participation and environmental factors that affect community participation for school-age children with and without disabilities.


      Cross-sectional, descriptive, and exploratory study.


      Parents from the United States and Canada completed the main outcome measure online in their homes or communities.


      Parents (N=576) reported on their children aged 5 to 17 years with disabilities (n=282) and without disabilities (n=294).


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measure

      Participation and Environment Measure for Children and Youth.


      Group differences in summary scores and many items were significant (P<.001). Children with disabilities participated less frequently, were less involved, and had less environmental support in the community than children without disabilities. Parents of children with disabilities desired more change in their child's participation than parents of children without disabilities. Effect sizes for summary scores were moderate to very large (n2p from .11–.40), with the largest group difference found in environment scores. Overall, the largest group differences in participation were in “unstructured physical activities” and “getting together with other children”—also the 2 areas where parents of children with disabilities most frequently desired change. The largest differences in environmental impact were in physical, social, and cognitive activity demands and availability/adequacy of programs and services.


      Results provide insights about where greater efforts are needed to support community participation of school-age children with disabilities. Further study with a more diverse sample in terms of race/ethnicity, family income/education levels, and geographic region is needed to determine the extent to which results may be generalized.


      List of abbreviations:

      ABI (acquired brain injury), ANCOVA (analysis of covariance), CP (cerebral palsy), PEM-CY (Participation and Environment Measure for Children and Youth)
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