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5 Steps to Promote Participation of Children with Disabilities in Physical Activities

5 steps exercise

This week on the blog the focus will be on exercise participation and children with disabilities.  The recommended amount of physical activity daily for children is at least 60 minutes per day. This can be difficult to accomplish for any children with the busy schedules that face this young generation today. For children with disabilities, this can be very difficult to achieve each day for various reasons. Pediatric occupational and physical therapists can help parents, teachers and other members of the community how to promote participation in sports, recreation and physical activities.

1. Educate on the benefits of sports participation and recreation: Regular physical activity helps the body by maintaining muscle strength and range of motion, increasing bone mass, and improving cardiovascular fitness. The brain also benefits from physical activity through elevating the mood, improving self concept, enhancing social skills and more. Specifically sports participation can create friendships, encourage creativity, foster teamwork and define meaning for one’s life.

2. Choose appropriate activities: A child’s disability or diagnosis needs to be taken into consideration when deciding upon an appropriate recreational or sporting activity. The American Academy of Pediatrics has produced various charts in the article Medical Conditions Affecting Sports Participation to help guide the decision making process. In general, it is recommended that children with disabilities participate in increased duration (minutes per session), frequency (times per week) and decreased intensity if comparing to typically developing children.

3. Minimize risk of injury: Once a sporting activity is chosen, modify the activities if necessary to ensure the safety of the child.

4. Adapt the activity: Offer suggestions to adapt the sporting activities so that the child can participate the most.

5.  Have a positive, supportive attitude: Unfortunately, society tends to view children with disabilities too susceptible to injury to participate in traditional sporting activities. Families and the environment seems to influence participation more than the child’s choices. Remember the children have a right to participate!

Reference: Murphy, Nancy A., Carbone, Paul S., and the Council on Children With Disabilities, Promoting the Participation of Children With Disabilities in Sports, Recreation, and Physical Activities Pediatrics 2008 121: 1057-1061