November 2008 Issue of USA Gymnastics

 

The Benefits of Sport Activities for Children with Special Needs

     Sports, especially fundamental and movement education based sports like gymnastics, provide tremendous benefits for children with special needs. Physical education programs can considerably improve the lifestyle of a disabled child and are highly recommended. These programs may help control obesity, promote activeness, increase a child's self-image and social skills, and increase motivation.

     The physical activity along with support, rewards, and interaction can, among other benefits, be very helpful to these children and their families.

Physical Improvements -

     Children suffering from cognitive disabilities are most likely going to suffer from physical impairments as well. These children have substantial problems with motor skills in areas such as hopping, skipping, and jumping. Involvement in gymnastics can help these individuals develop fundamental motor and physical fitness skills.

Self-Esteem

     Developing a sense of self-esteem and confidence is an extremely important part of special education. These children need to be involved in environments where they feel that they are contributing successfully to a group. Their abilities in all other skill areas will improve as a result of a positive self-image and confidence.

Cognitive Benefits

     The hands-on aspect of sports leads to cognitive skill improvement in children with disabilities and allows them to discover and access strengths that cannot be challenged in the traditional classroom setting. The inherent structure of sport, with its organization and rules, can be used as a learning tool for introducing and practicing self regulation and decision making skills. Additionally, children can learn verbal communication and interaction with peers through involvement in sport.

Disabilities may include:

~ADD/ADHD
~Autism Spectrum Disorders
~Blind/Vision Impaired
~Cerebral Palsy
~Deaf/Hearing Impaired
~Developmental Disabilities/Mental
~Retardation
~Downs Syndrome
~Epilepsy
~Feeding Issues
~Mitochondrial Disorders
~Sensory Integration Disorder
~Speech Disorders
~Spina Bifida
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