It is an undisputed fact that young and old must strive for a healthy lifestyle. This means kids, teens and adults must keep mentally and physically fit. Children with special needs most definitely benefit from having a balance in all aspects of their life: social, physical, and mental. My post today will bring out the benefits of physical activity for a child with special needs and what is available to make this happen.
Your child is not able to take part in regular gym class or team sports? Become informed about all the adaptive sports and adaptive physical activities for children with special needs. Talk to other parents and follow special needs parenting blogs.
Kids with physical disabilities face challenges. Some youth have limited mobility and/or tire more easily than other kids and teens. For some kids with sensory issues, communication challenges or difficulties with social skills, team sports are simply not fun. Kids with side effects from medication, those who are always overtired from lack of quality sleep and youth who are overweight and not physically fit at all will not enjoy many organized activity programs. What is the solution?
I was certain when I started researching to write this post that I would find how disadvantaged rural special needs families were in regards to adaptive sports and physical activity. This is still true in many areas especially with sport teams because the special needs community and the support and funding are not there in numbers great enough to make it work. But rural areas have wide open spaces offering ample opportunities for families to enjoy walks, bike rides, horse back riding and lots of unstructured physical activities.
Video Game Systems Designed for Exercising
Surprisingly what IT technology has done to social communication technology it has also opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for helping your child with special needs to exercise right in your home. No real sport equipment is required. No more driving or watching for good weather to play outdoors. No schedules to follow. Furthermore, these new, interactive electronic games/activities can be played with more than one player helping foster social skills.
Each video game has many levels of difficulty so your child will find the one he needs. Read about them and choose the game that best suits your child and the area of development you wish to improve. You can find games that address some of the following areas strength, endurance, gross motor development, balance, coordination, body awareness, hand-eye coordination, timing of movements, following sequences, etc. Choose the game that fits your child’s needs… or start with one that your child will LIKE to play because he is good with that skill. His boost in self-esteem might motivate him to try new skills in a different game.
If families find it too expensive to have these games in their homes, schools and community-based fitness centers and programs, like public gyms or local YMCA’s, already have Wii games and exercise modules in place for the use of their members/students. There are also other such games available and new ones coming out all the time:
- Wii Fit Plus Bundle includes the game software and the Wii Balance Board
- DanceDanceRevolution Bundle Bundle includes game and DDR dance mat controller for Wii
- Wii Spots Tennis, Baseball, Golf, Bowling and Boxing in the comfort of one’s living room
- Kinect Sport Ultimate Sport Collection: two best-selling Kinect™ game wrapped into one – 13 great sporting games – basketball, Soccer, American Football, Bowling, Beach Volleyball, Table Tennis, Boxing, Golf, Tennis, Skiing, Darts, Baseball
My Child Does Not Like Sports or Any Physical Activity
No form of sports or physical exercises interest your child? Promote other activities that involve moving/movements that will almost have the same end results. These come to mind and they are great for all the family and some are relatively not expensive. Can you add others in the comment box?
- Collecting rocks, leaves, flowers, insects…
- Photographing the objects others would collect or different balconies, unique door knockers, various signs, windows, roofs, birds…
- Gardening…flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit trees, berry bushes, small green house…
- Watching birds, squirrels, bugs, frogs….
- Playing catch with a dog, throwing a ball back and forth with a friend.
- Sitting on huge balls and keeping your balance.
- Learning to juggle, stacking cups, arm wrestling…
- Flying kites, making huge soap bubbles…
- Using hula hoops, gymnastic ribbons, dancing,
- Skipping ropes, hop scotch games, playing hide and seek
- Bowling, table tennis, swimming pool games
- Enjoying a playground, playing in your back yard on swings, slides…
Steps In Planning Physical Activities for Kids with Special Needs
Do it right and have peace of mind. Meet with your family doctor, pediatric physical therapist or a pediatric occupational therapist and have your child evaluated and find out what sports/physical activity would be suitable for him or her. Be sure you’re aware of any risks your child faces, get familiar with the proper safety precautions needed and familiarize yourself with any equipment needed. Almost any kind of disability can be accommodated with adaptive exercise/sport equipment or certain technique adjustments.
Benefits of Physical Activity for Children with Special Needs
All individuals benefit from regular physical activity and children with special needs especially. We could all gain from these physical, mental and social benefits of being active.
- See improvements in muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility.
- Improve exercise endurance, cardiovascular efficiency, and possibly increased life expectancy.
- Experience better balance, motor skills and body awareness.
- Will show improvement in behavior, academics, self-confidence and building friendships.
- Will have positive changes in their health, quality of life and boost to their self-esteem.
- Gets to experiences a sense of accomplishment and possibly the taste of winning or personal satisfaction.
- Experience increases in attention span, on-task behavior, and level of correct responding.
- Will increase appetite and improve quality of sleep.
- Will see a decrease in secondary health complications like obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and diabetes.
- Will find an outlet for their physical energy, will help them cope with stress, anxiety and depression.
Physical Education Programs Available in Schools for Students with Special Needs
Children with Special Needs are children first with the same needs and desires as their peers. The difference is that some of these students need adaptations and extra support.
In the United States to support their ability to learn in school, three Federal laws apply to children with special needs:
• The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (1975)
• Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
• The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (1990).
PE Central site states: “Special physical education/Adapted Physical Education (APE) is a federally mandated component of special education services [U.S.C.A. 1402 (25)] and ensures that physical education is provided to the student with a disability as part of the child’s special education services.” Physical education involves physical fitness, motor fitness, fundamental motor skills and patterns, aquatics skills, dance skills, individual, group games, and sports (including lifetime sports).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Public Law 108-466 (2004), states that physical education is a required service for children and youth between the ages of 3-21 who qualify for special education services because of a specific disability or developmental delay. A personally designed program will be outlined in the child’s Individual Education Program/Plan (IEP).
Under US federal law, children with special needs are entitled to participate in organized sports, physical education and recreational programs unless their presence puts them or someone else in danger. Many cities and towns now offer adaptive recreation classes and sports such as basketball, baseball, soccer, softball, swimming, bowling, and tennis…Kids with special needs can enroll in summer camps, Scout groups, dance groups, yoga classes…which now cater to all groups of youngsters.
Parents Must Be Role Models
Parents must be role models for an active lifestyle. Lead by example, make it a family affair and best of all have fun! Use your imagination and find fun, clever ways to get your child moving indoors or outdoors.
How do you make sure your child with special needs get his required daily amount of physical exercise?