Research aims to better connect disabled children with local sport

Movement Matters web banner 835 x 500

World-leading researchers at LJMU are undertaking a project with children across Merseyside to ensure that youngsters with learning disabilities have improved access to physical activity and sport.

Sport science experts from LJMU’s Physical Activity Exchange have funding for two years from the Baily Thomas Charitable Fund to work with SEN schools across the Liverpool City Region to find ways to ensure better inclusivity in exercise activities.

The project is called ‘Movement Matters’ and is targeted at an initial group of 8 to 10-year-olds.

As part of the research to date, 41 children were recently invited to the state-of-the-art LJMU Sport building to take part in a range of activities aimed at improving their motor skill performance. The event also helped to connect the children with organisations that deliver these activities out in their own communities.

The children played ‘Wackitball’ as well as hockey and basketball in sessions delivered in partnership with Everton in the Community, the LFC Foundation and others.

Children took home an information pack outlining each of the activities they had tried during the day and where, when and how they could continue to participate if they wished to do so.

Dr Sarah Taylor, Post-Doctoral Researcher at LJMU, said: “The Movement Matters project builds upon a decade of research already making a difference to the lives of children with learning disabilities and ensuring that they have excellent access to sport within the Liverpool City Region.

“We hope that our latest research will further improve physical activity levels and motor skill performance within the children we’re working with, and that the inclusive programmes we develop with participating SEN schools can be rolled out more widely across Merseyside.”

Researchers will continue to meet regularly with children, parents, and professionals at workshops as part of the Movement Matters project. They will co-produce recommendations based on their knowledge and experiences of the challenges that the children regularly face when engaging in physical activity, in a bid to better equip schools and parents with access to sports that best meet the needs of their kids. 

Movement Matters 2 web banner 835 x 500Kerry Macfarlane, Teacher and PE Co-ordinator at Hayfield School, one of the participating schools, said: “This is the second year our children have been involved in innovative and exciting research projects with LJMU. The Movement Matters event was a day my class will be talking about for a long time - they loved it! Thank you, Sarah and team, for having us on-board.”

This work is currently part of a pilot trial and if preliminary effectiveness is demonstrated in terms of physical activity and motor skill level outcomes in participating children, the researchers intend to target larger funding bodies to implement a larger-scale, multi-site, definitive trial.

Any local SEN schools interested in participating in the next phase of the project can email Dr Sarah Taylor for more information.

LJMU’s Sport and Exercise Sciences research was recently ranked in the top five in the UK, based on the Research Excellence Framework results published in May 2022. Research outputs were adjudged to be 96.2% ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’ by the national audit of university research quality. Find out more about sport science research.


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