It's no secret that physical activity is an essential aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Physical activity can provide significant benefits for children in all developmental stages of life. The advantages of exercise are especially crucial for children with special needs who tend to be less physically active and are at higher risk for inactivity complications.
The benefits of regular physical activity for children with special needs can impact their physical, emotional and social development. Despite what some may believe, children with special needs can demonstrate strength gains, increased flexibility, improved bone health, and better endurance and cardiovascular fitness with the addition of regular exercise to their routines.
Physical activity for children with movement disabilities is essential in maintaining mobility as they grow and develop. With enhanced physical health, children can better fight obesity and the associated health complications that may follow. Exercise and physical activity can also improve general mood and wellness. Regular fitness has been linked to improved self-esteem, social awareness, and self-confidence in children with special needs, traits that can empower children throughout their adolescence.
Interaction and involvement with other children will 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 determine what sports/physical activity would be suitable for your child.
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Don't approach physical activity as something children can't do, but rather guide them toward activities to succeed. Many sports and recreational activities can be adapted either by the game's rules or the equipment permitted in play. Resources such as Ochsner's TRI My Best triathlon, Miracle League and Special Olympics make it possible for children with special needs to participate in physical activity. As 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 physical activity!
Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 22nd, 2017.