New research raises concerns about motor development in children and young people with a vision impairment
British Blind Sport, funded by the Thomas Pocklington Trust and working with the University of Central Lancashire are publishing findings from a year-long study of blind and partially children and their motor competency skills. Physical activity is a significant predictor of health and wellbeing, yet 91% of children and young people with visual impairment (CYP-VI) spend their free time being sedentary; a figure that is significantly higher than their sighted peers.
In the UK there are over 25,000 children, aged 0-16 years old, who are either severely sight impaired or sight impaired. The research explores motor competence in CYP-VI in England and understanding their sport and physical activity habits, as well as identifying the gaps in physical development and motor competencies in comparison with their sighted peers. The study also examines how participation in sport and physical activity affects the mental and social wellbeing of CYP-VI.
‘The Exploration of Motor Competence in Children and Young People with Visual Impairment’ is an independent study that utilised varied methodologies including quantitative and qualitative data in the form of motor competence testing, questionnaires and interviews. Participants included CYP-VI, their parents or carers and numerous key stakeholders.
The report demonstrates that CYP-VI do not meet recommended daily physical activity thresholds and are less likely to be as physically active than their sighted peers. It also brings together activity providers to develop recommendations to ensure all CYP-VI have access to quality PE experiences to aid the development of necessary motor competence skills.
Alaina MacGregor, Chief Executive of British Blind Sport, reflected on the findings:
“We are delighted that the Thomas Pocklington Trust recognised the vital need for this research. Working with them and the University of Central Lancashire enables us all to have a better understanding of the physical needs and benefits for blind and partially sighted children. This report is an important indicator of the barriers to achieving an active and fulfilled life that children with sight loss face. Sport and physical activity have been proven time and time again as a powerful tool in improving health and wellbeing. The research solidifies our goal to use the power of sport to positively change the lives of people with sight loss and supports the continuation of our work with partners from the education, health and sport sectors to ensure that all young people with sight loss have equal access to physical education opportunities that help them to develop motor skills, get active and lead healthier and happier lives. The outcomes of this report will provide assist all stakeholders to develop services supporting early intervention and help remove obstacles to participation at a vital stage for physical development in a child’s life.”
Martin Symcox, Head of Sport and Leisure at Thomas Pocklington Trust commented,
“Thomas Pocklington Trust has been pleased to support British Blind Sport and University of Central Lancashire to undertake this unique study of blind and partially children and their motor competency skills. The benefits of exercise are well known, and we will continue to work collaboratively across the sight loss sector and beyond to help facilitate change for an equitable opportunity for children and young people who are blind and partially sighted to be physically active. Our vision is a society where blind and partially sighted people can participate fully and we wholly support the range of recommendations for key stakeholders.”
Dr. Jessica Macbeth, a Senior Lecturer in Sport at UCLAN, said:
“This project with British Blind Sport and Thomas Pocklington Trust has enabled UCLan to build on their existing expertise in visually impaired sport, by focusing specifically on children and young people. The study is the first of its kind in the UK and provides a crucial foundation of knowledge to inform key stakeholders about the experiences and needs of this young age group and their families. In doing so, we hope the research will inform future interventions and shape further research in this important area, ultimately contributing to more visually impaired children engaging in sport and physical activity, and being able to enjoy lifelong participation.”
- CYP-VI spent 91% of their week engaged in sedentary activities and only 9% of their week engaged in sport and physical activities.
- Physical Education lessons were the activity where most CYP-VI reported being most physically active.
- There were pronounced differences between perceived motor competence mean scores of CYP-VI and non-sight impaired CYP.
- There was a significant positive correlation between physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) and positive emotional state.
- There was a significant negative correlation between perceived motor competence and social desirability.
- Gross Motor Index mean scores between both severely sight impaired and sight impaired groups were lower than the non-sight impaired group.
- Severely sight impaired CYP scored lower on every locomotor and ball skills test than their sight impaired and non-sight impaired peers.
- Families exhibit positive attitudes toward CYP-VI participating in sport and physical activity but parents would like more support in understanding how they can help their children.
- Parents were concerned about their child’s experiences of Physical Education in Key Stages 2, 3 and 4.
- There was a perceived lack of unity amongst key stakeholders within the VI sport sector which impacted progress on improving sport and physical activity opportunities for CYP-VI.
- Role-modelling and peer mentoring were both recognised as beneficial for engaging CYP-VI in sport and physical activity.
The report details a range of recommendations for key stakeholders, including:
- The development of an inclusive PE curriculum for Key Stages 1 and 2 that ensures all children are able to access PE and develop the necessary motor competence skills.
- CYP-VI specific training and CPD opportunities should be developed for sports coaches and PE teachers.
- Educational support and resources are required to inform parents and practitioners about the importance of sport and physical activity participation amongst CYP-VI.
- Future interventions should be evidence-based and involve a collaborative, co-created process that empowers CYP-VI and their families to advocate for accessible sport and physical activity across multiple contexts.
- Future research should seek to adopt longitudinal designs to understand the complex relationship between engagement in sport and physical active, motor competence development, and wellbeing in CYP-VI.
A summary of the findings and the full report is available to download via the British Blind Sport Website.
For more information about the research or British Blind Sport, please contact: email@example.com or phone 01926 424247.
For more information about Thomas Pocklington Trust, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 8995 0880.
To contact the University of Central Lancashire research team, email email@example.com or call +44 (0)1772 893314.