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

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


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. Points of Interest Play is an important aspect of all children’s health and development Children with disabilities often experience fewer opportunities to engage in play Parents responses to ‘risk-taking’ in their children’s play help understand the barriers to play for children with a disability Social aspects of play are particularly challenging for parents of a child with disability Developing socially inclusive contexts is important to enhance all children’s opportunities to play.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1272-1292
Number of pages21
JournalDisability and Society
Issue number8
Early online date3 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Risk-taking
  • play
  • childhood
  • disability
  • children’s rights
  • inclusion


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