Graduation Year


Degree Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy


Background: Despite the positive physical, psychological, and social benefits of sports, children with disabilities participate in sports at a lower rate than their typically developing peers. Partnerships between occupational therapists and youth sports providers can facilitate inclusive sports environments that enable equitable access to sports for all children.

Purpose: The purpose of the Capstone Project was to explore youth gymnastics coaches’ perceptions on inclusive sports participation following an educational module.

Theoretical Framework. The occupational justice framework (Townsend & Wilcock, 2004) guided the development of the project through the view that equitable participation in preferred occupations is an individual right.

Methods. A qualitative descriptive approach was utilized with convenience sampling occurring through online platforms. Included participants completed an educational module prior to completing a semi-structured interview. Interviews were transcribed and coded prior to the determination of themes with triangulation and member checking employed.

Results. Thematic analysis resulted in the following themes: (1) occupational engagement in sports benefits both neurodiverse and neurotypical children, (2) sociocultural and physical environments create barriers to autistic youth’s participation in sports, and (3) grace and knowledge enhance coaches’ ability to promote inclusive occupational participation in sports for autistic youth. Themes were representative of the interconnected occupational components impacting inclusive sports of which occupational therapists are poised to address.

Conclusions: Lack of participation in sports for all children and children with disabilities is a complex system of physical, social, psychological, cultural, and environmental elements. Occupational therapists are equipped to educate youth sports providers and advocate for inclusive sports programs to facilitate equitable sports participation and health and wellness for children.

Faculty Mentor

Camille Skubik-Peplaski, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Committee Member

Shirley P. O'Brien, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

IRB Approval Number (if applicable)