It’s no secret that physical activity is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Physical activity can provide significant benefits for children in all developmental stages of life. This includes children with special needs who have a tendency to be less physically active and are at higher risk for complications associated with inactivity.
The benefits of regular physical activity for children with special needs can range from physical, emotional and social. In spite of what some may believe children with special needs can see demonstrates strength gains, increased flexibility, improved bone health, and better endurance and cardiovascular fitness.
Physical activity for children with movement disabilities is important in maintenance of mobility throughout the aging process. With enhanced physical health, children are better able to fight problems such as obesity and the associated health complications that may follow.
Physical activity can also improve general mood and wellness. Regular fitness can be linked to improved self-esteem, social awareness, and self-confidence, which aid in empowering the lives of children with special needs.
Interaction and involvement with other children will help to give them a sense of accomplishment and teamwork while working on communication skills. A great example of this is participation in structured sport. Structured sports provide a learning tool that can help children practice self-regulation and decision making skills.
Parents of children with special needs should encourage participation in sports and physical activity in general. Meet with your family doctor, pediatric physical therapist or occupational therapist to find out what sports/physical activity would be suitable for your child.
Don’t approach physical activity as something they can’t do, but rather guide them toward activities in which they can succeed. Many sports and recreational activities can be adapted either by the rules of the game or the equipment permitted in play. Resources such as Ochsner’s TRI My Best triathlon, Miracle League and Special Olympics are making it possible for children with special needs to participate in physical activity, and as the demand increases more programs are likely to develop.
Remember the number one factor when choosing appropriate activities for your children with special needs should be having fun. So whether it is an adaptive triathlon or time spent at the local playground, get your child their daily amount of physical activity!