Exploring the ICF-CY: What is Participation?

Screen shot 2016-08-26 at 9.56.26 PMThe International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health-Children & Youth (ICF-CY) is a framework for describing and organizing information on functioning and disability.  The ICF is a useful tool in the field of pediatric physical therapy, where the child defines how they want to use their function within the context of their own life.

In my opinion, the Participation category is the most fun part of the ICF!  This is really where we begin to see the whole child, their likes and their interests and well as what they want to do with their skills.   Participation is using an activity to interact with others or with the environment.  When the activity is walking, participation is walking on the beach with friends, or walking in the grocery store to help with the shopping.  Participation is one of the most motivating and satisfying levels of functioning.  New activities should be put into participation as soon as possible to build motor control.  These happen in many different environments:  Home, friends’ homes, schools, libraries and parks.  Therapists usually only know about this aspect of functioning by listening closely or by asking questions.  Therapists can increase participation by being knowledgeable about community activities and resources that match the child’s interests and ability level.  Here are some activities that happen in my community:  Fun Finder


Participation usually involves one of the F-Domains:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Fun
  • Future
  • Fitness
  • Function

Wondering about tests and measures that fit into the participation section of the ICF? Check out Tests and Measures for Participation


  • Collaborative goal setting with and for children as part of therapeutic intervention. Children’s responses underlined the significance of self-efficacy and participation for a child’s health and well-being. They gave priority to their independence, competence, and joy in meaningful everyday activities and indicated social motives such as belonging to and being accepted by others for their mainly participation-oriented goals.

Next in the ICF series: Exploring the ICF-CY: What are Environmental Factors?

Author: spritelypt

Pediatric physical therapist

One thought on “Exploring the ICF-CY: What is Participation?”

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