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Disability and Sport: Activities for disabled and autistic children

Having a disability should not hinder a child’s ability to participate in a sport.

Understandably, it can make a child feel less willing to partake in an activity due to a lack of confidence and they may feel inadequate to others. However, there are clubs that are designed specifically to cater for their needs and requirements.

Sport can help with a child’s overall health and wellbeing as well as increase their social skills when interacting with others. Sometimes, surrounding themselves with fellow sufferers can in fact help their confidence grow. This is because they feel less inadequate and alone in society. A child is more likely to flourish and enjoy the activity if someone has taken into consideration the adjustments that need to be made in order for them to take part.

Those with a disability often suffer from low self-esteem and this can affect their confidence levels as well as their motivation to partake in a sport that highlights their difference. However, a club that specialises in their condition may help increase their self-confidence as these places have a deeper understanding of the condition and the adaptations that are required in order for the child to be able to fulfil their passion and love for the activity. After all, it is important for them to enjoy it to its full capacity.

In this article, I will break down a range of activities which are suitable and the ways in which they can provide a heap of benefits.

Wheelchair Sports

Adaptive activities are highly beneficial for both physical and emotional wellbeing. An activity can release endorphins which stimulate positive energies. For those with a disability, it can reduce the anxiety that surrounds them due to their condition. It can be a mental challenge in terms of keeping high spirits, but it is proven that sport can create a sense of calmness and encourage a clearer thinking process.

A friendly game of wheelchair basketball or tennis might just be the highlight of their entire week. These activities can help to create a sense of belonging and keep their mind active. It can help in regard to understanding their own condition too and learn from others about how to cope and live with the disability day in and day out. Every day is a chance to learn, and the child may benefit from communicating with others about their condition and even receive support from like-minded people. It’s a great sense of community for them and those with the disability can have a deeper understanding and connection.

Sport can also allow the individual to become more independent and flourish. It can be so rewarding for them when they learn to adapt, develop new skills and even reach new heights when they score a point in those all-important matches! It may even help your child increase their stamina and muscle strength too.

The adaptive sport doesn’t have to just be limited to land, as children with a disability can also take part in rafting, rowing and even canoeing. These kinds of events are highly inclusive as anyone can become involved, irrespective of their physical disability and/or sensory learning impairment. Water-based activities provide a heap of benefits such as the ability to form friendships and become healthy at the same time.

“Disabled people can be hero’s too.” – Ade Adepiton (wheelchair basketball player).

Sports for the visually impaired

There is a sport which is called Goalball, and this involves playing three-a-side. It is developed for those who are partially sighted as the ball itself has belled inside which helps the players to indicate whereabouts the ball is located during play. The idea of the game is to roll the ball into the opponents net whilst the rival team try and block the ball from entering the goal in the process.

Did you know the game originated in Austria and Germany in the year 1946? It was created to help with rehabilitation for the veterans who become visually impaired in the second world war. The sport has now become part of the Paralympics.

The child could pair up with a buddy and partake in running. It’s great exercise and definitely allows you to work up a sweat. There are multiple clubs that provide these adaptations and the buddy’s aim is to allow the child to be able to be matched step for step with them. Their running partner will assist them when an obstacle occurs and even talk to them during the entire route. This kind of activity can help with social skills and allow their confidence to grow. In time, the child may even take a shine to the idea of putting on some trainers and taking to the streets with their buddy. There are competitions and fun runs that take place, and your child can mix with like-minded people as well as receive oodles of support from fellow competitors and even the crowd.

Sports for those with Autism

An activity that requires coordination and/or social interaction can be highly difficult for those with Autism. They struggle with the ability to communicate with others and the child may also have lowered muscle tone which hinders their overall coordination skills. However, this being said there are sports that can be adapted to those with Autism, and they can in fact help to provide development too.

Swimming can help your child develop and flourish with their motor skills but also thrive on the fun that comes with using the foam-based floats too. The sport helps as the movements required to participate are acute and there are competitions which take place too. It’s a great confidence boost for them and even more so when it becomes competitive as the child doesn’t need to interact so much and they can be fairly independent.

Despite the noisy environment, bowling is also considered a great activity because it’s consistent and repetitive. Children with this condition love stability and routine. It is a sport that others can be involved in to make up a team, especially with two lanes. There is also a chance to have them compete with others and be a solo player. This is great, especially if they struggle with communication and working with others in a team. Some venue’s host events in the evenings or on weekends, so it could be worth checking it out and seeing if they have adjustments in place. They might even get a turkey (three strikes in a row)!

“My social life is friends at the pool, I have just finished school as I am now a full-time athlete.” – Jessica-Jane Applegate (Paralympian Swimmer who was diagnosed with Asperger’s).

Your child could be the next Paralympian. The world is their oyster!

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