Background: Mastery of fundamental motor skills (FMS) in childhood is proposed to facilitate participation in physical activity (PA) opportunities, through context-specific application of FMS (Clarke & Metclafe, 2002; Stodden et al., 2008). Children with disabilities
impacting motor skill development thus are at greater risk for low PA participation. Evidence indicates significantly lower levels of physical activity among children with physical disabilities compared to peers (Law et al., 2006). However, only a few studies have examined the direct association between this participation discrepancy and FMS within this population, (e.g. Capio, Sit, Abernethy, & Masters, 2012) and the influence of FMS performance during activity on this pathway has not been systematically examined.
Purpose: To identify underlying mechanisms for low PA participation relative to motor skill development in children with physical disabilities. Specifically, the mediating effect of motor skill performance on the relationship between FMS proficiency and PA participation level was examined.
Methods: Ten children with disabilities were assessed around one time-point in FMS proficiency, FMS performance during a structured activity opportunity, and PA levels, as measured by accelerometry and direct observation. The mediation model was statistically tested using the ordinary least squares approach (Hayes, 2013).
Results: PA level, as measured through direct observation, was significantly accounted for by the effect of motor skill proficiency through motor skill performance (95% CI [0.001 - 0.009]).
Conclusion: Findings lend initial evidence that among children with physical disabilities observed during a structured PA opportunity, proficiency in motor skills influences rate of skill use, which in turn facilitates greater observed PA levels. Knowledge of this indirect pathway to participation has implications for PA promotion strategies and contributes to the broader discussion of the impact of disability on participation.