Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Parental Perceptions of Child's Experiences Participating in a Family Dog-Assisted Physical Activity Program for their Children with Developmental Disabilities Public Deposited

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  • Introduction: Parents provide an in-depth and unique perspective on their children with developmental disabilities (DDs) experiences and involvement in physical activity. Furthermore, family pets promote physical activity and quality of life in children with DDs. An imitation based physical activity program for children with DD and their family dog took place in the Summer of 2017 and in the Winter of 2018 and focused on teaching children with DD ages 8 to 17 years old to become the primary trainer of their family dog. Components of this program were strongly focused on joint (child-dog) physical activity. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of the imitation based physical activity program on children with DD. Method: A qualitative study was conducted by interviewing the parent(s) of 4 child participants. Parent interviews were conducted using a phenomenological approach, including open-ended questions based on their child’s experience in the imitation based physical activity program. Transcripts were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis to identify reoccurring themes and patterns among participant responses (Smith, 2009). Results: Themes revealed that positive experiences and skill acquisition in the program led to increased physical activity, increased confidence, ownership, independence, social interaction and child-dog bond. Five superordinate themes emerged including: comfort in an animal companion, interactions with dogs opens the door to interacting with the world, ownership and skill acquisition transferability, physical activity, and positive program experiences. Conclusion: Interviews with parent proxies revealed that the four-child participant’s positive intervention experiences aided in their development of dog ownership and the skills necessary to interact with their dog companion which led to further social interactions. The benefit of building a child-dog relationship was seen in child participant’s desire to care for their dog leading to their increased physical activity, responsibility and ownership. The positive results lead to a promising future for physical activity interventions involvement of family dogs.
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