Parental influences and involvement among youth with VI
In the last 10 years, emerging research has examined the perspectives and motives of parents of children with VI about PA participation for their children (Columna et al., 2013, 2015, 2017a, 2017b, 2019, 2020; Perkins et al., 2013; Scally & Lord, 2019). This evolving body of evidence describes the perceptions, views, and experiences of parents of children with VI in the United States (Perkins et al., 2013; Stuart et al., 2006) and Guatemala (Columna et al., 2013, 2015). By and large, the findings from these studies suggest that each family may perceive the benefits of physical activity differently (Columna et al., 2017a). For example, in a study by Columna et al. (2019), parents articulated that they highly valued active participation in PA because of the multiple benefits it provided; however, in some instances, they lacked the skills to initiate and create physical activity opportunities for their children with a VI and for their entire family. Parents in another study by Columna et al. (2017a) expressed that physical activity provides an opportunity to build their children’s confidence and their children developed friendships and socialization skills through their participation in physical activity.
In addition to the perceived benefits of PA, several studies have investigated barriers to parental involvement in PA and noted that the involvement of parents in the PA experiences helped their children to overcome these barriers (Columna et al., 2017a, 2017b, 2019). For example, parents in a study in the United States reported experiencing several obstacles that minimized their families’ experiences and opportunities to engage in PA (Columna et al., 2017a). Familial obstacles such as financial limitations, lack of time, and home responsibilities made it difficult for parents to engage in PA with their children (Columna et al., 2017a). Financial constraints were primarily associated with purchasing specialized equipment necessary for their child’s participation in PA. In addition to finances, families where one or both parents worked struggled to find time for their child to be a part of organized PA (Columna et al., 2017b, 2020). Another major limitation is that even though parents believe PA is important for their children (Perkins et al., 2013; Stuart et al., 2006), they may lack the skills to participate in PA themselves and consequently the skills needed to participate with their children (Columna et al., 2015; Perkins et al., 2013). Moreover, they may lack the skills to teach PA to their children (Columna et al., 2017b). For example, in a study by Perkins et al. (2013), in which the authors explored parents’ perceptions of PA for their children with VI, results indicated that even though PA was important for them, parents did not have the tools to teach or include their children with VI in PA.
Only a few studies have explored the perspectives of parents of children with VI outside of the United States. For example, Columna et al. (2013, 2015) documented perceptions of parents of children with VI from Guatemala on their recreational PA experiences and constraints to participation. While findings were similar to the ones discussed in previous literature, distinct particularities emerged which were related to the educational and cultural background of the families. For example, according to Columna et al. (2013), Guatemalan parents of children with VI lacked knowledge about PA opportunities for their children. When these families were aware of these opportunities, they could not be part of them because in some cases, they were too far from their communities. All families mentioned that financial constraints affected their participation in structured or expensive physical recreational activities (Columna et al., 2015). Additionally, in the same study (Columna et al., 2015), results showed that mothers were mainly responsible for planning the recreational physical activities because most fathers in this study worked outside of the home, limiting the time they had available. Several families in a study by Columna et al. (2013) also mentioned that because of the attitudes of others (people staring at them), they preferred to keep their children isolated from physical activities and even isolated from school. As such, several of these children did not attend school. Some of the participants in their study indicated that there were embarrassed of their children’s disability because they felt it was a punishment from God.
Fortunately, as research suggests, parents have continually indicated their willingness to be more engaged in the educational development of their children with VI and have continually expressed their desire to be considered and incorporated in PA programs and interventions with their children (Columna et al., 2020; Kozub & Oh, 2004). Moreover, scholars have also asserted that parents view it as essential for adapted physical education professionals to incorporate and value parental involvement (Columna et al., 2008). Specifically, parents of children with VI have demonstrated compelling positive attitudes toward the importance of PA for their children (Perkins et al., 2013; Stuart et al., 2006). Even though the purpose of this chapter focuses on PA outside the school setting, it is important to mention that students with VI can learn skills in physical education class that can be transferrable to PA settings in their community.
In conclusion, even though research has been conducted and we have learned that parents of children with VI deem PA important for their children, we still need to learn and explore motives and barriers to PA that these families are facing. Moreover, professionals in this field have asserted that there is a need for general understanding about the perceived benefits and constraints parents of children with VI might need (Shields et al., 2012). Overall, although many experts acknowledge the benefits of parental involvement, there is still a need for additional research to better serve families of children with VI (Columna et al., 2015).