Children with disabilities face roadblocks long before participation within a sports program. In addition, knocking down a barrier is rarely a one-time occurrence, but is something that must be wrestled with before, during, and after participation in a physical activity program. These barriers represent a breadth of issues and highlight the complex inter-relationships and inter-dependence of children with disabilities and their parents and caregivers. The initial trauma parents experience in giving birth to a child with disabilities is undoubtedly the first hurdle to cross for a child with disabilities to have an active life. Fiorini, Stanton and Reid (1996) detail the stages that parents experience after the birth of their child with a disability: shock and disbelief, guilt and mourning, adjustment and final acceptance, and mature adaptation. It is reasonable that the idealized progression of parental acceptance is not the norm for every family.
Failla and Jones (1991) detail the stressors that affect families raising a child with a disability, including acute, chronic or transition-related stressors: Acute stressors occur as periodic incidents related to the child's disability. Chronic stressors include concerns about the future, financial limitations, and the stigma attached to families of children with special health care needs by society. Transition-related stressors are usually linked to significant developmental milestones that occur throughout the child's lifespan, such as entry into school (Failla & Jones, 1991).
The ability of families to cope with these stressors is examined in relation to a coping mechanism labeled "family hardiness" (Failla & Jones, 1991). Some parents cope with raising a child with a disability by being overprotective and restricting their child's exposure to peer culture. These were factors cited by Steele et al. (1996) as theories why children with disabilities participate in fewer risk-taking behaviors such as drinking and smoking than their nondisabled peers. These restrictions might also prevent children with disabilities from participating in positive social activities.