BACKGROUND: Physical activity (PA) is often used to support the development of young children (<5 years) with disabilities. The effectiveness of PA as an occupational therapy (OT) treatment approach in this population has not yet been systematically examined. AIMS: This research aimed to explore the uses and effectiveness of OT PA interventions on developmental indicators in young children with developmental disabilities.
METHODS: A systematic review of peer-reviewed publications (from 2000 onward) across six electronic databases was conducted. The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) framework was used to assess study quality. Narrative synthesis (vote counting and structured reporting of effects) was employed to summarize the findings.
RESULTS: Eight studies with heterogenous interventions were included. Evidence demonstrated positive trends of participation in the PA interventions on physical, cognitive, and social-emotional indicators, with significance varying. There was no association between interventions and communication indicators or negative effects related to participation in the interventions. Overall, the studies were low-quality when judged by GRADE.
CONCLUSIONS: PA may be a promising avenue for OT interventions among young children with developmental disabilities. Rigorous research is needed to determine the magnitude of effect PA has on developmental indicators.
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