The Importance of Promoting the Participation of Children with Disabilities in Sports and Tips to Implement it at Home

An important part of childhood is participating in sports. Most of us grew up playing baseball, basketball or soccer with our friend from their neighborhood. Physical activity provides many benefits for children, including those with disabilities. According to the Institute on Disability/UCED, approximately 7% of the US population accounts for children with disability. However, there is a lack of opportunities for their participation in recreational sports and physical activities. In recent years, many efforts have been made from different international organizations to try to close this gap and create more opportunities. Despite these efforts, an increasing number of children with disabilities have reported low levels of cardiorespiratory strength, less muscular endurance, and higher rates of obesity than typical children.

Benefits of sport participation

The main reason to participate in sports is to increase physical activity to help reverse impaired mobility, optimize physical functioning, and increase overall well-being. Playing sports plays a fundamental role in the maintenance of normal muscle strength, flexibility and a better joint structure and function. Good levels of muscular strength and endurance help increase bone mass, reduce injuries from falls, and provide a greater ability to complete daily activities.
By participating in sports children can leave behind a sedentary lifestyle that leads to obesity and other health complications. Sports participation also enhances the psychological well-being of children with disabilities; it provides opportunities to make friends, be creative, develop self-identity and live a more meaningful life. For example, Special Olympics athletes show better self-esteem, physical competence, and peer acceptance when compared with non-participants. Finally, participation in regular physical activity can foster independence, coping abilities, competitiveness, and teamwork among children with disabilities.


Today there are more opportunities for children with disabilities to participate in sports. Organizations like The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons provide information about sporting options for individuals with the most frequently occurring physical disabilities. For example, for children with Down syndrome physicians recommend participating in sports they enjoy, with the exception of contact sports. For children with asthma it is recommended to have available medication for use before and during the activity. With the possibility of modifying sports activities to suit the needs of children with disabilities, the idea is to stay away from exclusion and embrace inclusion and participation with a “you can do it” attitude.

When looking for sport programs for children with disability it is important to keep in mind that the activities should target cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, balance, agility, muscular strength, enjoyment and safety. Make sure the program has a protocol to minimize the risk of injury to children with disabilities while playing sports before participation. It is recommended that the program utilizes exercises that are longer on duration, more repetition and less intense compared with programs for developing children. It is important that the facility is adequate to ADA regulations, have availability of automated external defibrillators and established concussions protocols. Finally, talk to the coach to explain what disabilities your child has. Remember, it is important for children to build habits of being physically active to improve their physical and mental health and ultimately be happy.


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