Physical Activity for Children with Disabilities – Tips for Inclusion Sports

We are aware of the importance of physical activity for children with disabilities but research indicates children don't stick with inclusion sports.

Many of us are aware of the importance of physical activity for children with disabilities.  Unfortunately, research indicates that persons with disabilities frequently join inclusive sports but do not continue with inclusion sports overtime. Parents report rejection by staff and other participants. In addition, parents feel that there is a lack of contact and understanding of people with disabilities.

Suggestions to Increase Participation and Physical Activity in Children with Disabilities

Physical activity for persons with disabilities is extremely important. It is disappointing to hear that parents find inclusive sports not appropriate for children with intellectual disabilities. School-based occupational and physical therapists can be instrumental in promoting physical activity for individuals with disabilities. Try to schedule a presentation on inclusive sports for your community or school. Here are 8 tips to help any children with disabilities participate in inclusive sports programs:

1. First and foremost make sure that the sports program is accessible for the child. If not, offer some modifications that can make the program accessible.

2. Educate the coaches and volunteers on the child’s disability. If a coach does not know what to do, it can make participation very difficult.

3. If any modifications require adapted equipment, make sure all sports staff know how to use it.

4. Offer suggestions on how to present the directions or rules in different formats instead of just verbally. Maybe the coach could provide written rules or visual demonstrations.

5. Inform sports staff that the child may need accommodations such as more time to complete a skill.

6. If a child requests additional help, perhaps assign a partner (peer or adult) to help.

7. Do not assume a child can not do a task. If possible and safe, always let them try first before determining that something can not be accomplished. Most likely, sports staff will be amazed at what children can accomplish.  If necessary, pre-teach the skills necessary to participate in the sport.

8. Remind staff of safety precautions that be necessary for specific disabilities such as a visual or hearing impairment.

Based on your own experiences, what have you done to support inclusive sports?

Reference: Eva Hiu-Lun Tsai, Lena Fung. Parents’ Experiences and Decisions on Inclusive Sport Participation of Their Children With Intellectual Disabilities. APAQ, 26(2), April 2009.

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We are aware of the importance of physical activity for children with disabilities but research indicates children don't stick with inclusion sports.