While opportunities vary depending on a child’s particular condition and abilities, sports should always be part of their regular activities. That’s because there are lots of physical, mental, emotional, and developmental benefits of playing sports for kids with disabilities.
Whether it’s swimming, biking, basketball, baseball, softball, karate, soccer, kickball, yoga, competitive cheer, gymnastics, or any other solo or team sport, parents of children with developmental disabilities should find ways for their kids to participate, encourage them to do so in a positive manner, and always cheer them on from the sidelines.
Again, not every sport is a good fit for every child. It’s important to carefully consider the necessary skills, physicality, schedule, and other demands of an activity and evaluate whether it’s safe and appropriate for your son or daughter. And it’s also essential that you research the facility, coaching philosophies and practices, team, and other aspects to ensure you choose a positive, inclusive, supportive environment.
But if you’re not yet sure it’s worthwhile, take a look at just some of the impressive benefits of playing sports for kids with disabilities….
- Regular physical activity is an important part of maintaining a healthy body weight
- Playing sports promotes heart health and helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and all sorts of other diseases
- It also burns off excess energy, which is good for them—and for you parents!
- Sports are great for boosting mood and managing or preventing depression and other mood disorders
- They also increase strength, agility, coordination, motor skills, stamina, flexibility, balance, speed, bone density, circulation, and other physical characteristics
- And they enhance focus, visualization, strategic thinking, problem-solving abilities, and other aspects of mental performance, which extends beyond games to school, hobbies, work, and elsewhere
- Sports also instill patience, discipline, and better impulse control
- They help develop sense of spatial awareness, distance, personal space, timing, rhythm, and similar concepts
- Being on a team provides a sense of belonging
- It helps them hone their social skills, too
- Sports participation is an excellent way to form meaningful, lasting friendships
- It also builds self-esteem and confidence
- Team interactions build leadership and teamwork skills
- Competition and quality coaching encourage good sportsmanship, including how to support others, enjoy successes, and accept disappointments
- Sports teach about setting goals and being persistent to achieve them
- And let’s not forget what might just be the most important benefit: It’s fun!