An ethnography of children with dyspraxia participating in gymnastics
Hessell, Stephanie Christine
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This thesis describes three boys diagnosed with dyspraxia and their whanau (families and extended families) as they enter and become part of a community gymnastics group in a city in New Zealand. The study builds on literature that has defined dyspraxia in terms of dysfunction, but generally failed to resolve the disorder. Through the social perspective of health and well-being, participation of children and adults with disabilities has been explored in terms of the person and the environments in which they participate; however, the influence activity itself has on participation has not been thoroughly described. There has been a growing interest in the participation of children with disabilities in recreation and leisure activities and this study provides an in depth cultural perspective of such participation in New Zealand context. This study aims to answer the question "What do children with dyspraxia and their whanau do in a gymnastics group, and what does it mean to them to participate?". The overarching question is "What is the culture of a community gymnastics group in which children with dyspraxia participate?". Ethnographic methodology is employed to ensure that the participants' perspectives, including the beliefs, values and meaning that their participation holds is portrayed, while the associated activities and behaviours are also captured. As the boys with dyspraxia and their whanau entered the gym, they built on their previous experiences to make sense of what they needed to do and what meaning the environment held. I had not planned on the boys being integrated with an established group, but on the first night they spontaneously joined in with a noncompetitive, mixed age, boys group. The parents perceived the Club as professional, while the boys were initially intimidated. Fortunately, the equipment, which made the gym look like a playground, enticed the boys to participate. To shift the boys from their initial perception of the gym being a playground, the coaches used two styles of An Ethnography of Children with Dyspraxia Participating in Gymnastics coaching to support and encourage their participation, while suppressing behaviour that did not fit with the norms of the Club. The boys needed to develop gymnastics skills and fit into the group to become gymnasts. The boys succeeded in fitting into the group by both developing skills and adapting their behaviour, while the type of boys without dyspraxia, the style of coaching afforded, the range of equipment and the activity of gymnastics itself meant that some of their initial difficulties were accommodated and they were seen as group members. The participants developed values and beliefs about what the boys participation in the group meant. Having fun and developing confidence and fitness were highlighted, while the social aspects (making friends and the whanau experiences) were also seen as important. The parents and coaches felt that the boys' experiences in gymnastics had an impact on them that would transfer to the world beyond the gym. This study contributes a qualitative perspective on the participation of children with disabilities in a sports occupation, with a focus on the cultural context of their participation.