Adapted Athletic Programs

Adapted Athletic Programs

Recreation and exercise is extremely important for all individuals including children with disability. Leisure athletic activity enhances psychological health. As individuals with disability age, a large decline in gross motor function is observed in part due to de-conditioning. Individuals with disability often are dependent on family for leisure due to limited community outlets. Adapted athletic programs are available in many areas. Information about these programs can be accessed in the resource section of this module.
Inclusion within community-based athletic programs is an option for many children if the family, child, and program are given adequate supports. The results of one study indicated that when inclusion of a child with special needs into a community Little League program with modifications to the rules and equipment was suggested, the typically developing children in the program thought it was a great idea. The parents of the typically developing children had some concerns but were generally accepting. The coaches were the barrier to such an inclusion program. These coaches expressed that it would not be fair to the typically developing children and that the child's inclusion would lead to disadvantages for the team. If a child or family desires to have their child participate in community sports, support and guidance must be offered particularly to the coach.
Many children with a disability want to learn independent leisure athletic skills but require adapted equipment or assistance choosing activities. In some cases, a physical therapy consultation might be obtained specifically to address this issue (e.g., the child who wants a bike or trike for a present but family doesn't know what to purchase, the selection of a sporting wheelchair.) Physical education (PE) and recess activities at school are also important. The need for adapted PE and/or supports or social structuring on the playground should be addressed in the Individualized Education Program (IEP).


Services in Nevada

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All families of children with special health care needs less than 3 years of age should be referred to their local Early Intervention program for evaluation and initiation of services to optimize development. Early Intervention programs are federally mandated to evaluate and provide services for children with or at risk for development delays based upon diagnosis or risk factors. Not all families will choose to use these services and in some cases (when their there is an associated fee) private services funded through private health insurance may actually be lower cost for an individual family.

Children with special health care needs older than 3 years may qualify for services to optimize their function and societal inclusion through the special education program at their local school district. Physical Therapy (PT) services are provided as needed to support mobility within the classroom and educationally related goals but are not provided within the educational system for specific medical goals (e.g., enhancing range of motion).

Disability Related Sports

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Early Intervention for Children with Disabilities/Delays

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Physical Therapy

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School Districts

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Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: September 2009; last update/revision: September 2013
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Lisa Samson-Fang, MD