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Sense report aims to understand physical activity needs of families

A new report from the charity Sense highlights that a person-centred approach and flexible delivery are required for more positive and engaging experiences. Sense's report highlights the key recommendations for all sports providers to consider when delivering inclusive activities for children, young people and families. 

Girl on swing

The report, ‘Understanding the physical activity needs of families who have children with complex disabilities', is released in partnership with ukactive Research Institute and Sport England. It contains research consultation to understand the physical activity needs of families, and recommends a number of key findings.

The research findings highlight five key themes for ongoing and improved inclusivity and consideration of a person's needs when designing and delivering physical activity opportunities for children with complex disabilities. The focus is on adopting a person-centred approach to activity development, selection, availability, frequency and format so that activity sessions are centred around need and are more accessible to more children.

Improved inclusivity and consideration of need when designing and delivering physical activity opportunities

Following the insight, sports and physical activity providers should develop and design physical activity sessions using a co-creation, person-centred approach. They need to ensure access and engagement in suitable activities are available to all disabled children, including those with more complex disabilities.

In addition, the report highlights the need for clear communication of opportunities to allow parents, carers and children to prepare. In particular, providing detail on the content of the session including any specific exercises, the ability level, adaptations according to needs, and accessibility of the facilities ensuring it can meet the needs of families in advance.

As a result, the Sense Active team will design a programme of activities that meet the needs of families based on these recommendations. They will be evaluating this with the ukactive Research Institute in a second phase of evaluation launching in February 2022. 

Alissa Ayling, Head of Sport & Physical Activity at Sense, said: 

"Early positive experiences of sport and physical activity can support children & young people not only in physical health, but in social interaction, gaining confidence, developing gross motor skills, and enjoying new experiences.

"Parents and carers play a crucial role in supporting their children and families to be active, and by understanding the barriers and motivations, we are better placed to ensure that activities meet the needs of all children, and can be accessed with confidence."

Dr Matthew Wade, Head of Research and Development at ukactive’s Research Institute, said:

"It is vital that we ensure more children, young people and families have access to physical activity in a way which is enjoyable, sustainable and meets their needs.

"By seeking the views of families, our consultation has helped to identify the important steps that can be taken by sports and physical activity providers to ensure their services are suitable for children and young people with complex disabilities.

"ukactive will continue to work with Sense and our members to support more children and young people to experience the joys and health benefits of physical activity and sport."

Download, read and adopt the recommendations

As well as providing research and recommendations for Sense Active and our delivery of children & young people’s activities at Sense, this research is relevant for other sport and physical activity providers.

The full report, easy read and accessible versions are available to download via the Sense website

For more information, please contact Louis Wickett-Padgham, Sense Sport & Physical Activity Development Manager on 07970 668825 or by emailing