Physical Activities for Children with Disabilities
This article was developed through a collaborative effort between NCPAD and BlazeSports.
Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.
The number-one factor in choosing appropriate activities for children with disabilities should be fun. Any activity chosen for your child, either by you, your child, or as a group, should offer varying degrees of fun. The primary reason that children participate in sports is fun, and the key reason they quit is a lack of fun. Community-based programs that offer activities for children with disabilities can provide suggestions to help both you and your child select the most appropriate activities for your child’s interests and goals. NCPAD offers a programs database that lists physical activity-related programs throughout the nation that offer opportunities for people with disabilities.
Then the question becomes, “How do I ensure that an activity that my child is interested in will be fun?” There are no guarantees, but listed are some guidelines that you can follow to help make each experience the best that it can be. To be successful in helping your child create a healthy lifestyle, activities must be selected that will help your child achieve feelings of:
Once you have communicated with your child and selected appropriate activities that will allow sufficient opportunity for your child to have fun, you must determine measurable outcomes for defining belonging, success, accomplishment, growth, and competence. To do this, it is important to set goals.
Goal setting can be done before and after selecting appropriate activities. Goal-setting can be used before selecting activities in order to help determine what activities may best serve the health, fitness, athletic, recreational, and social goals of the family and the child. Goals to consider prior to selecting activities include:
Once you and your child have determined the goals you have for a specific activity, together you can determine what activities will best serve the attainment of those goals.
After selecting an activity, you and your child need to decide specific outcomes and goals that you want to achieve as a result of participating in that activity. These outcomes and goals should be measurable and achievable. Each goal should also be written down and put in a place that is typically visible, such as the refrigerator or bedroom door. Additionally, once a goal is achieved, a new goal should be set.
As an example, let’s say that the appropriate activity that was chosen was recreational basketball. This can apply to either ambulatory or wheelchair basketball. Assuming that the child is 10 years old, somewhat active, enjoys basketball, but has never played it, here are some goals that may be established for this activity:
These are just some examples that offer some insight as to how you can set measurable and attainable goals for each activity that is chosen.
Do you have questions about letting your child participate in organized physical activities?
Ask other parents how they found safe and fun activities for their children in the My Child Without Limits support community. We’ll be monitoring the community regularly and adding the best ideas to our caregiver notebook.
BlazeSports America (U.S. Disabled Athletes Fund)
National Disability Sports Alliance (NDSA)