You’re not the only one who grew up in a time when street hockey, basketball, kickball, and baseball were an essential part of childhood. Many children, regardless of whether they were athletic or spent their time indoors playing video games, have fond memories of playing in a local sport league at one point in their childhood.
For children with disabilities, it’s not as easy. The Department of Disability and Human Development recommends that youths exercise for 60 minutes every day, but children with disabilities don’t get as much.
Unfortunately, they are also less active and more obese compared to their non-disabled peers. The combination of obesity and inactivity poses serious health risks for disabled youth. Research shows that one of the biggest challenges for youth with disabilities is increasing their physical activity and fitness in their communities.
Mary Kate Morgan, a therapist who works with disabled youth at Larabida Children’s Hospital, Chicago, says that “Kids without disabilities benefit from physical activities, sports, and activities just like other kids that are usually developing.”
However, it is a fact that children with mental or physical disabilities may have difficulty joining a team and finding communities with programs for them can be difficult.
All children benefit from the same camaraderie and self-esteem that sports provide, as well as a sense of belonging, accomplishment, and sense of belonging that they experience.
Morgan explains that there are many physiological benefits to the exercise, including increased cardiovascular endurance, muscle endurance, flexibility, coordination, and coordination. Morgan cites psychological benefits such as self-concept and self-esteem improvements, better relationships with other children, improved friendships, and an overall improvement in their quality of life.
MODIFIED SPORTS OR GYM CLASSES
Morgan says that allowing kids to play sports, even adaptive sports, can help them achieve their psychological and physical goals. Children may not be able participate in traditional gym classes or soccer teams. However, they can learn to be just as productive and build camaraderie among their peers as well as self-esteem by participating in modified sports or gym classes. They discover that they are in control of their bodies, and that exercise is good for their body, mind, and spirit.
Special Olympics is a program for young people who have a cognitive or physical disability. This could mean that they need assistance to move their wheelchair, or to walk with a walker. Their ability to participate is equally important in situations where the disability may be more severe. However, they might need an aid, teacher, or volunteer to assist them. Modified sports teams include anything from wheelchair basketball, where the hoops can be lowered, to rubberised baseball diamonds so that children in chairs can move the bases.
In some communities, where children with disabilities and kids who are typically in the developing stages play together, integrated teams might be possible. These teams often have extra volunteers and aids. Some teams have children aged 6-15 who are assessed for their skill level.
It is important to remember that children who are able to participate in integrated teams at their level of ability should not focus on winning but on learning and having fun. Being involved in sports can help you develop your emotional skills like leadership, following directions and team fellowship.
Morgan says that although I felt like I was not the most talented at sports, my family encouraged me to play and kept my head up. “It was a shame because I am sure I was the most spirited child in my class,” Morgan said. Remember to remind kids that they are not there to be the best shooter or scorer, but to learn and improve their performance, have fun, and make friends.
For children with disabilities, sports like tennis, swimming, golf, and track may be the best. They can concentrate more on their performance, whether they are winning, improving their score, or competing against one another.
IMPORTANT TO START
Participating in sports for children with disabilities can be difficult because of the many obstacles. Is the sport equipped with the appropriate adaptive equipment for your child? Is the culture of your child’s teammates right if it is an integrated team? Families should make use of all resources available to them, including teachers, pediatricians, and other health professionals.
“We have many organisations at Larabida that introduce children to different sports. Morgan says that a company called to Dare to Try offers adaptive bikes to children and gives them the opportunity to experience triathlons.
You can also find summer camps and vacation day camp options that offer kids with special needs the opportunity to experience activities such as archery, kayaking, or hiking.
Check that your child has been through a sports physical before allowing them to start the sport. Look for coaches and volunteers who have experience working with disabled youth. Discuss your child’s disabilities with the coach. In integrated teams, teammates need to be aware of their child’s limitations. Perhaps he is able to bat, but needs a replacement base runner. Maybe she needs to take more frequent breaks. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Morgan says, “It is important to develop habits of being physically active. Sometimes with children with disabilities it becomes harder to be physically active as their tolerance for exercise decreases and they become heavier.”