There must be “something in the air” because I decided last month to address the next column to recreational activities and was just asked this week to help our Department of Health with a guide for children with special needs! Having fun is just as important as any of your other caregiving activities. And remember children’s play is their “work” and how they learn.
There are many recreational opportunities for children with special needs year-round. Depending on your child’s abilities, there are “typical” settings that may fit, mixed settings where all children are included, as well as activities just for children with special needs. Also, you may want to decide if you want to join in the fun, or if parents are allowed to go offsite it might be a nice respite break for you.
The first place I would recommend checking for ideas is the Bright Futures guide which covers wellness and children with special needs and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics at www.brightfutures.org/physicalactivity/pdf/index.html . You’ll find information on specific conditions and a toolkit at the end.
There are simple things families can do to keep everyone healthier such as…
- taking a walk outside or walking the dog
- parking further away or mall walking
- use stairs instead of elevators/escalators
- cut down on screen time (TV, computer, videogames)
- dance to music
- park playgrounds (for accessibility click on U.S. playgrounds at the top to the page at www.accessibleplayground.net )
- learn a new sport as a family, check out your local YMCA or municipal rec. department
I realize that some of you may be dealing with complex issues. My daughter was homebound as medically fragile til age 6. We were still able to go in our backyard and do things like blow bubbles…even though she didn’t have the strength to do it herself, she’d reach up for the ones I made. So here are some more resources for different abilities:
www.abledata.com (assistive technology to help with participation)
www.littleleague.org/media/challenger.htm Challenger baseball with peer buddies-Click on “Start or Find a Challenger Division” at the bottom of the page
www.miracleleague.com Accessible baseball field also with peer buddies-click on “Find a League/Start One” in the middle of the menus at the top of the homepage
www.specialolympics.org Special Olympics (some centers have free weight rooms/gyms besides team sports)
www.bam.gov/sub_physicalactivity/physicalactivity_meetchallenge.html for kids with asthma or physical limitations
www.girlshealth.gov/disability/disbody/sports.cfm just for girls!
I hope some of these ideas will assist your child and even your whole family to find fun things to do which will decrease stress and help you all be healthier and happier.