Daily physical activity improves the brain function which will improve performance. Unfortunately, many children do not get the amount of physical activity they need to succeed, especially people with disabilities. If exercise helps children grow brain tissue and improve its function, it is especially important for children with disabilities, who are behind their peers in motor and/or cognitive functioning, to exercise on a daily basis and reap these benefits. It is also important to instill a love for activity in our younger children with disabilities because research shows that adults with disabilities do not get the exercise they need to stay healthy. This lack of physical activity could stem from their childhood, where exercise and sports may not have been emphasized and therefore, the love for activity never developed. So we understand how important it is for our children with disabilities to exercise but how do we do it? “Easier said than done”, is what you may be thinking. While you may be right, you can incorporate exercising with your child into your day. It has to become part of your ROUTINE and be scheduled into your day. Here are some ways to incorporate exercise into your family’s day:
Plan daily 15 – 20 minute walks around your neighborhood, especially after school and before homework or a therapy session.
Encourage your child to participate in Special Olympics, Unified/Allied Sports in High School, or other recreation/sports activities offered in your community through your recreation and parks program.
Purchase a small piece of exercise equipment, such as an exercise mat or exercise video for quick, easy exercise breaks.
Look for aquatic options in your community, including swim classes, exercise classes, or opportunities to play in an indoor/outdoor pool. This is a great option for students who use wheelchairs or other devices that limit their motor opportunities.
Here is simple, fun game to get your child moving: Indoor snowball fight or “clean up your backyard” (depending on the season) – Divide the room into two areas using chairs or other furniture. You are on one side and your child is on the other. Throw small yarn balls, balled up newspaper or other safe, soft objects over the divider to each other’s area. The “object” of the game is to get all the objects on your neighbor’s side or “backyard”, play until you are all tired! Finding an exercise/sport/activity that your child with disabilities enjoys is very important.
“Adults with Disabilities: Physical Activity is for Everybody.” www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/disabilities/ May 2014.
Carmichael, Mary. “Can exercise make you smarter?” http://abllab.com/compelling-articles/can-exercise-make-you-smarter 26 March 2007.
Patton, Steve. “Exercise makes you smarter.” www.dddnews.com/story/2109891.html 15 August 2014.
Society for Research in Child Development. “Why does physical activity during childhood matter?” ScienceDaily, 2 December 2014