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Parents’ perspectives on managing risk in play for children with developmental disabilities

Stillianesis, Samantha; Spencer, Grace; Villeneuve, Michelle; Sterman, Julia; Bundy, Anita; Wyver, Shirley; Tranter, Paul; Naughton, Geraldine; Ragen, Jo; Beetham, Kassia S.


Samantha Stillianesis

Grace Spencer

Michelle Villeneuve

Anita Bundy

Shirley Wyver

Paul Tranter

Geraldine Naughton

Jo Ragen

Kassia S. Beetham


Parents are often concerned about managing risks for their children, particularly in the context of disability. This paper reports qualitative findings from an intervention study and examines how parents of children with developmental disabilities (mainly autism) manage risks during play. Interviews (n = 17) highlighted parents’ fears about their child’s safety, which were often exacerbated by concerns about the child’s (lack of) cognitive and intellectual capabilities to ‘appropriately’ negotiate harms. Outdoor play and play that involved other children were reported as particularly challenging. In these contexts, parents described how they would intervene and redirect play activities to avoid any emergent physical, emotional and social harms. The social aspects of risk and disability gave way to adult-mediated and controlled forms of play. We conclude by considering opportunities to support the full inclusion of children with disabilities and their rights to play.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 21, 2020
Online Publication Date Feb 3, 2021
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Sep 7, 2021
Journal Disability & Society
Print ISSN 0968-7599
Electronic ISSN 1360-0508
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37
Issue 8
Pages 1272-1292
Public URL