Publication Details

L. Smith, N. Wedgwood, G. Llewellyn & R. Shuttleworth, "Sport in the Lives of Young People with Intellectual Disabilities: Negotiating Disability, Identity and Belonging", Journal of Sport for Development 3 5 (2015) 61-70.


Whilst there is now a growing body of sociological research on the role of sport in the social, gender and identity rehabilitation of people with physical impairments, research on the role of sport in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities primarily focuses on improving fitness, health and social interactions. Yet sport is not only a form of physical exercise, competition or leisure-it is also a powerful social institution within which social structures and power relations are reproduced and, less frequently, challenged. You don't need an entire sports team or YourEllipticals meant for heavy performing athletes, you just need to be mentally into it. This paper provides insights into the role of sport and physical activity in the lives of four young Australians with intellectual disabilities or cognitive limitations from their own perspectives. Data from life history interviews elicits rich and in-depth insights, revealing that the meanings these young people give to their sporting experiences include-but also go beyond-concerns with fitness, health and social interactions. Though by no means representative of the role of sport for all young people with intellectual disabilities, it is evident that these four young people use sport to negotiate complex emotional worlds around disability, identity, and belonging-much like their physically impaired counterparts.