Engaging Special Needs Children with Fitness
Special needs children can often be a challenge for parents with their endless energy and inability to process information the same way was typically developing children do. Fitness has shown to be a big benefit to those kids. It is a healthy and appropriate outlet to get out some of that energy and can help them focus.
Many special needs programs have noticed the positive affect of fitness with children who fall under that spectrum. A lot of schools have added a mini trampoline to the back of the classroom or have placed one in a hallway for those kids to use when they are having a difficult type focusing on their work. You don’t have to have equipment to mimic the results of a trampoline. You can do jumping jacks or short sprints or hopping on one foot to add coordination control. The idea is to use fitness as a positive benefit when these kids need a short break or a few minutes to regroup and refocus on the assignment they are given.
The biggest obstacle when trying to engage a special needs child with fitness is the social aspect of it. Many of the children who fall on the spectrum have global developmental delays as well as social skills difficulties. This makes it hard for the kids to interact with other children. And the typically developing children often are confused on how to interact with a child on the spectrum. Research the facilities you are interested in and research the fitness instructors. Make sure they understand that your child has a disability and make sure they are equipped to handle a child like yours, since all children have different needs. All parents want what is best for their children and for them to be in a safe environment. If your child has a severe disability that being in a regular youth fitness class could potentially cause harm to themselves or others, consider a private class so that your child can still benefit from the class itself. Contacting the special needs schools in your local area provide a great resource for this. They often have contracts with companies that provide extracurricular activities to the special needs communities and can refer you to specific sports classes that fit your needs.
While we never want to make a child feel singled out, you want to make sure the instructor is trained to work with and provide care to a child with disabilities so that your child will feel comfortable in the class and that you will feel good about knowing that the caregiver is highly trained and understanding to your child’s needs. Picking the right fitness class for your special needs child can provide a lifetime of benefits including social interactions, team work, camaraderie, and the opportunity to make friends outside of school.
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