**Forthcoming in Progress in Community Health Partnerships (PCHP). All rights reserved.**
Background: Children who are neurodiverse have traditionally been segregated from their peers in community-based programs, despite evidence of health benefits of inclusive education.
Objectives: This community-initiated project aims to explore barriers and facilitators to inclusive aquatics programming for children with developmental and/or mental health challenges.
Methods: Using a participatory-action research methodology, semi-structured interviews and focus groups were conducted with 14 participants from various stakeholder groups, including parents of children who are neurodiverse, helping professionals, and community programmers.
Results: Participants described unique definitions of inclusion, from integration with neurotypical peers, to individualized goal-setting and achievement. Major facilitators include adequate resources, flexibility around accommodations, and motivated staff. Major barriers include social stigma, financial limitations, and lack of communication between caregivers and service providers.
Conclusions: Participants felt strongly about the need to improve inclusion practices within
aquatics – and other community-based – programs. Increased collaboration between families, community programmers, and helping professionals can foster better inclusion and outcomes for children who are neurodiverse. By incorporating various perspectives into the design of future programs, program administrators can ensure more equitable access such that all children are able to participate.