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Prescription for Physical Activity for Children with Disabilities

December 17, 2021

Family Connections with Pediatrics

The abilities of our children with disabilities, especially within sports and recreation, are misunderstood. They often do not have many options to play sports or be physically active.

This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics has released a clinical report entitled “Promoting the Participation of Children and Adolescents with Disabilities in Sports, Recreation, and Physical Activity” (10.1542/peds.2021-054664).

What is in the Report?

The report talks about the types and levels of sport and physical activity for children with disabilities. It shares research about the benefits of sport and activity for children with disabilities.

However, even with these benefits, sport and physical activity is often a low priority by parents and teachers when making health or education plans.

Some of the barriers for children with disabilities in sports and physical activity are:

  • lack of quality, accessible and safe programs
  • long waiting lists if programs do exist
  • high costs
  • transportation issues
  • discrimination

Your child’s doctor may not know about sport and physical activity programs that may work for children with disabilities or have talked with a youth or their family about finding a sport or activity. The report talks about how to find the right type and amount of physical activity that will be safe for children with disabilities. The report also talks about how all of the members of a child’s health care and education teams can work together so that our children with disabilities can be active, have fun, and play.

The report provides tools to help children with disabilities find an activity that is fun and safe for them. Some of the tools include:

  • Ways to begin talking about physical activity
  • Ways to create “physical activity prescriptions”
  • Information about how physical activity and special education law are linked
  • Outline of pre-participation physical evaluations
  • Ideas for state, local, and community programs

How can you use this report to help your child with disabilities and the community?

  • Ask your child’s doctor for a pre-participation physical so you can have an appointment to talk about physical activity for your child.
  • Remember that this will not be a one-time talk. It is a start and leads to meetings with the entire care team, including school, coaches, and therapists, to make a plan.
  • Use the report to help you, your child’s doctor, and your child’s school to plan physical activity IEP (Individualized Education Program) or 504 goals for your child.
  • Use the report to work with the school to create inclusive activities for the entire school so that all children can reach physical activity goals together each day.
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