para sport

The importance of sport for children with disabilities – and the lengths their parents go to access it

Access to physical activity and sport is not equal. Children and young people with disabilities are less likely to engage in physical activity and sport, as there are significant barriers to their participation.

Part of the Children and Young Person's campaign.

Parents are often vital in helping their children become involved in sport. In our research, we spoke to 11 parents of children and young people aged between 12 and 25 who were competing in at UK or international level in parasport. We wanted to understand their experience supporting their children’s sport participation and parasport pathways. Their children were competitive in a range of parasports, including wheelchair tennis, athletics and swimming.

For most parents, their child’s sense of social belonging was their biggest concern. This had led them to seek out opportunities for their child to find social connection with others through sport.

All of the parents in our study had children that attended mainstream schools. School is often one of the most important opportunities for children to develop social relationships. But our parents told us that, for their children, school was often isolating. Most of the parents felt school offered little for their children in relation to developing meaningful social relationships. One parent told us:

“He’s emotionally very up and down, and the downs are mainly to do with feeling socially isolated and missing out on things. I don’t think it’s been a particularly positive experience, school.”


the conversation

For the full article by Dr Janine Coates (Senior Lecturer in Qualitative Research Methods, Loughborough University) and Dr Frank Hayden (Endowed Chair in Sport and Social Impact, Western University) visit the Conversation.

For the next few weeks, the University’s PR team will be shining a light on research and expertise that is improving and enhancing the lives of children and young people. Keep an eye out on Twitter and TikTok for the latest Children and Young People campaign news by searching #LboroExperts. Or visit the Media Centre for the latest campaign and University news.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/52

About Loughborough University

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2023 QS World University Rankings – the seventh year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.