The effect of the environment on participation of children and youth with disabilities: a scoping review
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OBJECTIVE: The study’s purpose was to identify and synthesize research evidence regarding the effect of the environment on community participation of children with disabilities. METHODS: A scoping review of peer-reviewed studies published from 1990 to 2011 was performed. Two independent reviewers selected studies based on a systematic procedure. Inclusion criteria for studies were: participants with a disability, aged 5–21 years, whose environment was examined in relation to participation in out-of-school activities. Data were organized and synthesized based on environmental domains within the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF): Natural Environment/Products and Technology; Support and Relationships; Attitudes; and Services, Systems and Policies. RESULTS: Searching identified 1232 articles and 31 met the inclusion criteria. Each domain of the environment within the ICF influenced participation as a facilitator and/or barrier. The most common facilitators involved social support of family and friends and geographic location. The most common barriers included attitudes, physical environment, transportation, policies and the lack of support from staff and service providers. CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge derived from this review can assist practitioners in addressing the specific environmental domains that influence children's participation. Such awareness can also foster new research questions and assist policy makers in identifying the factors influencing participation. IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION: All domains of the environment, suggested by the ICF, have an influence on children’s participation.Evidence regarding the effect of the environment on participation is focused primarily on children with physical disabilities; more studies are needed involving various health conditions and age groups. Practitioners and decision-makers can focus attention on specific aspects of the environment, e.g. attitudinal challenges and social support, in order to foster inclusion and participation-based communities.