Kysha Rooks: Fitness and children with disabilities

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 28, 2023

By Kysha Rooks
N.C. Cooperative Extension

No matter what your child’s abilities, some form of physical activity is important to their well-being. Some kids, though, require extra support and encouragement to make exercise (adaptive or otherwise) a part of their routine. Your child is more likely to feel motivated and get involved when they’re doing. And if your child tries out a variety of activities, they can also discover new interests, develop more skills and get enough physical activity into their day.

There may be factors that may contribute to weight gain in children with disabilities such as food aversions, the side effects of medications and mobility limitations. Tips to help your child to become more active.

Find out what motivates your child and use it to encourage another desired activity.

Use positive reinforcement and be specific in your phrase.

Skip generic phrases like “Good job!” Instead, tell your child exactly what they did well.

Implement rewards, children with special needs often benefit from a very specific reward.

Show examples of physical, so many children with special needs are visual learners. One of the best things you can do to help motivate them is to show them pictures or videos of other children with special needs doing the same activity you want them to do.

Practice the fitness you preach, time for you to get moving, too. Children with special needs are always watching, even when it seems like they’re not paying attention. “If we’re asking our children to be active but we as parents aren’t doing that ourselves, it reduces the buy-in from the child.” Plus, participating in an activity with your child is a great way to bond.

Kysha Rooks is EFNEP educator with the Rowan County Extension.

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