Overview

A parent of a student at Phoebe Gilman Public School who has severe asthma said that they were very happy with the Play for All program. It will provide their daughter’s classmates the education to understand why she can’t participate in certain gym activities or physical fitness. Their daughter sometimes encounters animosity from other students about why she can’t participate as fast in gym and is sometimes bullied. This program will help her classmates and peers understand asthma, which is invaluable.

Regular physical activity is important to the health and well-being of all children. Yet the one in five Ontario children who have asthma, a common chronic childhood disease, may see it as a barrier to being physically active.

Poorly controlled asthma can limit a child’s ability to play, exercise and sleep—all critical to his or her development. Uncontrolled asthma can also lead to a child withdrawing from physical activity and sport. When asthma is well managed and well controlled, however, children who have asthma should be able to participate fully in all activities.

The Play for All Pilot Project

In the Play for All program, The Lung Association and its partner, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, are implementing an innovative after school program for students in grades 1 to 6, combining education on lung health, asthma awareness and the importance of physical activity for promoting lung health.

This pilot was introduced in Durham Region and York Region, two geographic regions with high asthma prevalence rates among children, and is now offered in Brantford and Hamilton. The second iteration of the pilot incorporated a higher level of youth engagement – youth had input on the content and development of the activities, and will be involved in the co-facilitation. The program participants will learn the importance of fundamental movement skills and the health-related benefits of physical activity, specifically for lung health.

After school program staff and supervisors have been trained on promoting awareness of lung health, asthma and physical activity. They have learned how to create an environment and programming that is comfortable, inclusive and engaging for students with asthma to participate in.

Students from the after school programs, with and without asthma, will participate in the Play for All pilot program. They will have hands-on experience with more than 20 lung health activities over a 12 week period. They will also have the opportunity to engage family and friends in what they are learning and provide input into the program through the evaluation tools.

"Don't let asthma define you as a person. You can do anything anyone else can do!" - Play for All participant

Play for All Outcomes
1

Encourage all children, including those living with asthma, to become physically literate and active for life

2

Improve their understanding of lung health and the role of physical activity in maintaining it

3

Improve parents’ understanding and comfort level with their child’s participation in physical activities

4

Provide a supportive and safe exercise environment

5

Build the capacity of the community recreation sector to support children with asthma

Success Story

The children at Cecil B Stirling School are more aware of what asthma is and how they can include others who have asthma in activities. They have been sharing what they have learned with their parents and other children outside of program. For example, one girl has a friend with asthma. During a cold day out on the playground she noticed her friend coughing a lot. She remembered our discussions on what types of things trigger asthma. She realized that the cold weather triggered her asthma. She ended up lending her scarf to her friend and then instructed her to keep the scarf over her mouth and nose. From then on she says her friend always makes sure she has a scarf on a cold day.