Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Masters of Science (Research)


Health & Leisure

First Advisor

Dr. Anna Marie Greaney

Second Advisor

Mr. Pat Flanagan


Aim/Background: This study examines how adults with intellectual disabilities choose the physical activities they engage in, inside and outside of the day service they attend. Of particular relevance are the benefits derived from physical activity which promotes wellbeing, inclusivity, new opportunities and social acceptance for people with intellectual disability. This is timely in light of current policy with regard to New Directions 2012-2016 which is directed towards moving people with ID from congregated to community settings and the enactment of the recent Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act (2015) which supports decision-making for all citizens.

Methodology: The study used phenomenological analysis (IPA) to elicit the participants' experiences of choosing physical activity as an adult with an intellectual disability. IPA is concerned with the detailed examination of human lived experience. The use of phenomenology facilitates the meaningful participation of adults with an intellectual disability in research about their lives. Following ethical approval, immersion in the service commenced leading to the purposive sampling of nine core participants. Data collection adhered to the IPA format of asking overarching questions. Semi-structured Interviews with staff were conducted in order to illuminate the study and not replace the experiences of the core participants. The framework of analysis, as outlined by Smith, Flowers and Larkin (2009), traced the development of emerging themes that evolved into superordinate and related subordinate themes.

Findings and Recommendations: Three superordinate themes emerged from the research. They include, firstly, the less strong link between physical activity and health on behalf of the participants. Secondly, the important role the service plays as a facilitator of physical activity. Thirdly, choice and choice-making is not a concept readily understood or practiced by the core participants. These findings resonate with the extensive literature review that incorporates self-determination and antecedents to choice-making in its corpus. Findings suggest recommendations for service, policy and research, especially in light of the supports needed to facilitate the Assisted Decision making Capacity Act (2015) and the current transition from segregated settings to community. It also recommends services linking into relevant, cost effective local programmes that support people with ID in physical activity. This study will contribute towards the current knowledge base regarding physical activity and choice among adults with ID.

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