How to Encourage Exercise and Activity in Special Needs Kids
Many children with special needs do not get the exercise or physical activity their bodies need. Some of those children (especially those with autism) prefer a sedentary lifestyle. That was certainly the case with my special needs daughter. She wasn’t interested in moving her body. We tried putting her on sports teams in the community, but that was a disaster. It made her dislike physical activity even more. After some trial and error, we were able to find some good ways to engage her physically.
Get the entire family involved.
Because special needs kids often have a hard time keeping up with their peers physically, having the family involved is a great way to encourage physical movement. Whether it’s a simple walk around the block or a more vigorous hike, the family can enjoy moving at a comfortable speed.
Consider their interests and aversions.
Choosing an activity that your child feels an aversion for is probably not a good idea. However, if you can find something that captures interest, it can become an enjoyable activity. Our daughter enjoyed being in the water from the time she was born. She had swimming pool therapy with her occupational therapist when she was a baby.
Now, as a teen, she swims on our local swim team. She isn’t a very fast swimmer, but she loves swimming and it makes her happy. Running through the sand and water at the beach is also a favorite activity for her.
Think outside the box.
Special needs kids don’t necessarily enjoy the same activities as typical children. Maybe a sensory swing could be a good fit for your child or maybe a climbing gym in the backyard would be fun. As a younger child, my daughter loved chasing her brothers around the yard with water guns.
Consider speaking with your child’s physical or occupational therapist about what physical activities might be good and enjoyable for your child.
Discover what programs are available in your area.
Many areas have sports programs specifically for kids with special needs. We were able to find a program that teaches special needs kids to ride a bike. It was great for our daughter and now allows our entire family to enjoy bike riding together.
Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Sometimes as parents, we tend to go with what we know or are used to doing. There are so many different options to get kids up and off the couch. Something like horse therapy can get kids excited about getting their bodies moving. Maybe your child would like an activity like martial arts or running.
You never know unless you try. Giving your child some exposure to different activities and allowing for him or her to choose one or more can encourage success.
Encourage Exercise and Activity in Special Needs Kids
Getting your special needs child involved in physical activity is possible and probably easier than you think. By staying involved and finding enjoyable activities for your child to engage in, you are setting him or her up for a life of health and physical well being. You also open up new possibilities for family fun together.