Many parents of special needs children lament their children being left out of sports programs and other games at school. While many schools are supportive of the mainstreaming and inclusion method for education, special needs children are often left behind when it comes to sports.
While many symptoms of special needs, including inattention, lack of impulse control, and trouble following directions make sports difficult, or it is problematic when schools and other programs try to set up a team. Sports programs are limited for those children with special needs, but the benefits these children can receive from a team activity is outstanding.
Many children with special needs have difficulty interacting with peers, and the presence of bullying makes it challenging for some children to want to participate in sports programs. However, sports programs tailored to special needs children help encourage social interaction and working as a member of a team. Several of these programs include older and younger children, and the elders become mentors to the younger ones.
Many parents of special needs children are calling for more sports programs — they say when a child is not stimulated, he just sits there. Parents view these programs as a way for children to receive stimulation, which is ultimately better for them. These stimulating activities improve both social interaction and physical capabilities.
In addition to social benefits of sports programs, physical advantages also improve a child’s life. Oftentimes through participation in sports programs and other physical activities, children with special needs can do things they would not have been able to do before the programs. For example, one four-year-old girl with cerebral palsy had difficulty bending her legs, and her parents would have to carry her around wherever they went; after cheerleading classes for special needs children, this girl was able to bend her knees and roll on the ground. Many of these physical activities can be challenging, but most special needs children do the movements with smiles on their faces. In the case of the girl with cerebral palsy, the cheerleading class gave her a chance to do things she would not normally be able to do, and it gave her a sense of “normalcy” and ability to act like a kid.
Sports programs dedicated to children with special needs also prevent a source of ridicule from other children, and it provides a sense of satisfaction when they succeed. Most people can remember scoring a goal, getting a ball through a basket, or doing a cartwheel for the first time — these accomplishments are ones every child deserves.
If your special needs child is not involved in a sports program, now is the time to find one. While your child’s school might not have a program for special needs, many private facilities will have or will consider creating a class for your child. Find other parents of children with special needs who are interested in a sports program — many companies are more likely to create a program if there is a large interested party.
Photo by PamelaVWhite
Resource: Northwest Florida Daily News