Dr Eli Ristevski1, Ms Sharyn Thompson2, Ms Anna McKenzie3, Dr Carole Broxham2
1Monash University, Monash Rural Health, Warragul, Australia, 2Moe Life Skills Community Centre, Moe, Victoria, Australia, 3Red Sporty Girl, Moe, Victoria, Australia
Low levels of physical activity are consistently demonstrated for people with intellectual disabilities. Daily activities often focus on health needs or communication difficulties resulting in missed vital physical and recreational activities. The LIFE program was developed to increase physical activity, promote health and well-being and social inclusion for people with high support needs and disabilities through participation in physical activity with community members.
Clients with an intellectual disability from a community-based disability education and training service (n=6) as well as local community members (n=6) were invited to participate in a Pilates program. Support workers assisted clients as necessary (n=2). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with support workers (n=2) and community members (n=3), and an adapted interview tool was used for clients with limited communication (n=6). Thematic analysis was undertaken.
All participants reported a positive experience in the program with an overarching feeling of inclusion and purpose. Clients noticed an overall change in their physical and emotional wellbeing. Community participants felt a sense of increased social purpose. All participants welcomed the diverse range of people and abilities in the class and felt it was an opportunity to make meaningful social connections.
The pilot project was found to be acceptable and feasible. The LIFE in Action Project extends this research and aims to build the capacity and acceptance of mainstream recreation and leisure facilities and / or groups to increase opportunities for people with high support needs to participate in physical activity with others in their community.
Carole is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Moe Life Skills Community Centre. Carole originally developed curriculum and taught post graduate and under graduate programs to students in medicine, nursing and health sciences as well as the development and delivery of adult education programs for the Social and Community Services sector. Carole’s PhD thesis explored how service provision influenced and shaped the lives of people and their families living with a disability in the Latrobe Valley – a region that continues to undergo significant social, economic and environmental change.