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Pediatr Phys Ther. 2004 Summer;16(2):114-20.

Enhancing participation for children with disabilities: application of the ICF enablement framework to pediatric physical therapist practice.

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  • 1Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.



This paper describes how pediatric physical therapists can utilize the enablement framework, embraced by the World Health Organization in the current International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF). The ICF can guide clinical reasoning related to enhancing participation in desired activities for children with disabilities. In the ICF framework, participation reflects the person's engagement in important life situations. By emphasizing what the person can do in valued contexts, the enablement framework is a positive complement to a focus on functional limitations and disability of the disablement model.


Current conceptual frameworks and policies advocate attention to children's participation. Legislation (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Amendments of 1991 and 1997 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990), the Guide to Physical Therapist Practice, and motor control and action perspectives all support the inclusion of children with disabilities in natural environments. These frameworks and laws can guide therapists' clinical reasoning to focus on children's participation in desired activities during the evaluation, goal-setting, and intervention process. A case study of a child with spastic diplegia illustrates how pediatric physical therapists can apply the enablement framework to develop meaningful goals and interventions focused on enhancing the child's participation in desired activities.


Adoption of an enablement perspective may help pediatric physical therapists to focus their evaluations and interventions on promoting children's participation as well as the specific functional activities that enhance participation.

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