My involvement with Miracle League at Cypress Mounds is driven by my belief that all children deserve an opportunity to play sports. Sports are a major part of many children’s lives, and most people can agree that a child can benefit greatly from them. Sports provide children with exercise, chances to socialize with their peers, and a way to get rid of excess energy. Plus, they’re a lot of fun.
Naturally, children with special needs can benefit greatly from playing sports. Sadly, many parents and coaches feel that the roughly 18 percent of children in the U.S. who live with a disability should stay away from any physical or competitive sports. This is a shame, especially since there are plenty of things that a child with special needs can get from playing a sport. Here are just four benefits adults should keep in mind.
- Physical Fitness
A child with a disability may not be able to do all the things that other kids can do, but they still need physical exercise to be healthy. Playing a sport can give a special needs child the same kind of exercise that it can give anyone else. Some adaptations may need to be made for children with physical disabilities, but swimming, bicycling, jogging and even some team sports such as baseball and soccer are all great for children with special needs.
- Social Skills
Team sports give children some excellent opportunities to socialize with their peers. This goes for special needs children as well as for “healthy” children. Playing for a team allows children to meet other kids who share their interests, and it teaches them the importance of working with others to reach a common goal. These are valuable lesson for anybody, no matter what they are or are not capable of doing.
There is a stereotype that says you don’t need to be very smart to be good at sports, which is wildly untrue and unfair to athletes everywhere. Not only does physical fitness affect cognitive ability, but playing a team sport involves a lot of problem-solving and strategy. You need to know how to out-maneuver the opposing team and how to work with your own teammates to win. It involves a lot of work, even if you think you’re just a random player on your own team.
Self-esteem is important for everybody, including those with special needs. Society is often unkind to disabled people, and that can hit a child especially hard. Playing a sport can not only give a special needs child a chance to do what so many other children are doing, but it can give them a chance to excel at it. Children are far more capable than many adults realize, and they should all have the chance to prove that even if they have special needs.