Ndhlovu et al., 2017 An Evaluation of the Attitude of Physiotherapy Students towards Managing Children with Disabilities in Lusaka

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Keywords: Childhood Disabilities, Attitudes, Physiotherapy Students, Zambia


Background: Negative attitudes of medical professionals and students towards Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) have been reported. Attitudes of physiotherapy students towards managing children with disabilities in Zambia are not yet known. The purpose of this study was to gain an insight into what attitudes physiotherapy students at the three learning institutions in Zambia have toward this segment of the population in order to support efforts to implement appropriate interventions.

Methodology: This study was a cross sectional design that used a self-administered questionnaire for data collection. Physiotherapy students were recruited from Evelyn Hone College (EHC), Lusaka Apex Medical University (LAMU) and the University of Zambia (UNZA). Demographic information, basic issues of disability and attitudes of physiotherapy students using the Attitude towards Disabled Persons Scale (ATDP-A) were captured. Statistical Package for Social Sciences was used for data management and analysis. Descriptive statistics where used for data summaries. Overall and item-by-item analysis of the responses to the ATDP-A scale was carried out. Analysis of Variance was used to test the influence of variables while chi-square test was used to test the Associations of factors.

Results: One hundred and twenty-six students (N=126) with a male majority (53%) participated in the study. Mean age of the participants was 24.4 ± 2.4 years (range 18-38 years; SD=2.4). Scores on the ATDP-A scale ranged from 20 to 102 with an overall mean score of 74.95 and a standard deviation of 6 (17.50). Based on the cut-off score for the scale, positive majority attitude score was observed in 55% of the students. Evelyn Hone College had significantly more positive attitudes than LAMU and UNZA (F (13.61), p < .0001). Older age and training satisfaction were contributing factors to attitudes of students.

Conclusion: Physiotherapy students at all the three institutions had overall negative attitudes towards managing children with disabilities. Student preparation, enough exposure to PWDs and willingness to work with children with disabilities have an impact on the attitude students have towards managing children with disabilities. It is therefore imperative that students are adequately prepared to work with children with disabilities to reduce negative attitudes upon graduation.