Participation Knowledge Hub

Participation knowledge hub header

What is participation?

Participation is defined by the World Health Organization as “involvement in life situations”. 1 At home, school and in their communities, children and youth take part in a wide range of activities, such as playing games and team sports, doing arts and crafts, joining a youth group, or going to the movies with friends. Participation in everyday activities plays a key role in child and youth development. 2,3

Children and youth with disabilities; however, are often more restricted in their participation than are their typically developing peers. 4-6 There are many things that can impact a one’s ability to participate, including a person’s abilities, skills, and preferences, as well as their health condition. In addition, the environment also plays an important role in successful participation. 1,7

  • Click here for list of references

    1. WHO. International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Geneva: WHO, 2001.

    2. Larson RW, Verma S. How children and adolescents spend time across the world: Work, play, and developmental opportunities. Psychological Bulletin 1999;125(6):701-36.

    3. Mahoney JL, Schweder AE, Stattin H. Structured after-school activities as a moderator of depressed mood for adolescents with detached relations to their parents. Journal of Community Psychology 2002;30(1):69-86.

    4. King G, Law M, Hurley P, Petrenchik T, Schwellnus H. A Developmental Comparison of the Out-of-school Recreation and Leisure Activity Participation of Boys and Girls With and Without Physical Disabilities. International Journal of Disability Development and Education 2010;57(1):77-107.

    5. Engel-Yeger B, Hanna Kasis A. The relationship between Developmental Co-ordination Disorders, child's perceived self-efficacy and preference to participate in daily activities. Child: Care, Health & Development 2010;36(5):670-77.

    6. Law M, Anaby D, Dematteo C, Hanna S. Participation patterns of children with acquired brain injury. Brain Injury 2011;25(6):587-95.

    7. King G, Law M, King S, Rosenbaum P, Kertoy MK, Young NL. A conceptual model of the factors affecting the recreation and leisure participation of children with disabilities. Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics 2003;23(1):63-90.

What is the environment and why is it important?

When considering the environment, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the physical environment (e.g., the presence of elevators and ramps, access to buildings and public transportation). However, a person’s environment includes many other things, such as the social environment (e.g., family and peer support), attitudes of others, and institutional policies (e.g., availability and cost of programs, waiting time).

In many situations, especially those involving children with lifelong health conditions, changing the environment can be a much more practical way to enable participation than trying to change the child’s physical characteristics and/or abilities. As such, the environment is recognized as an important area of focus for families, researchers and clinicians.

Throughout this Participation Knowledge Hub, you will find information about participation and the environment, along with tips and strategies for making child and youth participation the best it can be!

How can we measure participation and improve it?


PREP – Pathways and Resources for Engagement and Participation – is an evidence-based approach to occupational therapy that focuses on enhancing participation through modifying the environment. Using this skills-based approach, occupational therapists work with the client (and his/her parent or caregiver when appropriate) to identify aspects of the environment and the activity that either support or hinder participation. LEARN MORE

Pem cy

The PEM-CY is a measure that evaluates participation in the home, at school, and in the community, alongside environmental factors within each of these settings. PEM-CY is the first measure of its kind as it assesses both participation and environmental factors in the same framework. LEARN MORE

“I think that it opened their eyes to what is possible and what they could do with their child and what they could do with their family.” - Occupational Therapist on the PREP – Pathways and Resources for Engagement and Participation

Recommended Websites

There are a lot of great websites that provide information about participation and stories that will inspire you to get involved in new activities. Below is a list of websites we have reviewed. These recommended websites provide reliable, useful information for children, youth and parents. Please let us know if you have other websites you like us to review by sending an email to Rachel Teplicky.

  • Click here for list of recommended websites

    Ability Online

    Ability Online offers a great program for children, youth and young adults that connects its members to a supportive online community of role models and mentors. It includes learning resources and provides a safe environment to receive assistance tailored to your specific learning needs. Under the Our Program tab, we recommend you visit the Meet our Kids page for inspiring videos!

    Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability

    The Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability (ALACD) "promotes, supports and enables Canadians with disabilities to lead active, healthy lives." ALACD provides resource and provider directories under the Resources tab to facilitate active living opportunities for Canadians of all abilities and across all environments. Inspiring videos, success stories, and detailed activity fact sheets are available under their Resources tab!

    Disabled Sports USA

    Disabled Sports USA aims to improve the lives of youth and adults with disabilities by providing "leadership and opportunities for individuals with disabilities to develop independence, confidence, and fitness through participation in community sports, recreation and educational programs." Great features we recommend include the Adaptive Sports page (under Resources), where detailed information on adaptive sports is provided, as well as the Programs tab for information of various sports programs to get involved in!

    Discover Leisure Education

    The inclusion of individuals with disabilities into leisure and play is the main focus of Discover Leisure Education. Amazing features of this website include information on the physical, emotional, mental, and social benefits of leisure, play and inclusion. Under the Finding Resources tab, the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability provides recommended sources for adaptive sports and outdoor recreation.

    Holland Bloorview Family Resource Centre

    Holland Bloorview Family Resource Centre "aims to create a world of possibility for kids with disability." We recommend visiting the Fun section of their website for motivating stories and videos, as well as programs and community activities you can join!


    ILL-Abilities aims to help individuals "discover tools, a mindset, and a voice that will enable them to evolve and develop their lives within their passion". ILL-Abilites has created teaching methods that are inclusive to all ages, abilities, and skill levels. We recommend visiting the Media tab for inspirational videos of other's following their passion for dance. Another motivating feature we recommend is the No Excuses, No Limits tab for information on the Motivational Entertainment Program and Integrative Dance Workshops.

    National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (link to "Articles" Fun and Leisure)

    The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability provides information, services, and programs to promote health and inclusion. The Fun and Leisure section (under the Articles tab) provides "summaries of research articles that focus on exercise, fitness, and physical activity for people with various disabilities and chronic health conditions."

    Paralympics - Canadian Athletes

    The Canadian Paralympic Committee supports athletes with disabilities and works to promote their success. Their website aims to inspire "all Canadian with a disability to get involved in sport." A great page we recommend visiting is the Athletes page. Here, dozens of success stories about our very own Canadian Athletes are available for you to read!

About the Participation Knowledge Hub

The Participation Knowledge Hub is an evidence-based online resource for sharing information about child and youth participation. The materials that are available on the Participation Knowledge Hub, including Participation Tip Sheets, success stories, and research summaries, have been developed with input from families, service providers, and researchers. We envision that the Participation Knowledge Hub will become a go-to resource for current, dependable, practical information about child and youth participation.

Research Team

Participation team

The people behind the Knowledge Hub are researchers from universities across Canada and the United States:

Our research team works in partnership with individuals and organizations who also strive to promote and share knowledge about children's participation and environment. We partner with:

  • Families of children and youth with and without disabilities;
  • Service providers who provide healthcare, education, social and recreational services;
  • Organizations such as children's treatment and rehabilitation centres, hospitals, and health care organizations;
  • Researchers and university educators in Canada, United States, and around the world;
  • Policy analysts and decision-makers.


The development of the Participation Knowledge Hub is funded by the Knowledge Translation Supplement Grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Previous research focused on development and validation of the Participation and Environment Measure for Children and Youth (PEM-CY) was funded by National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).