Sports for Children with Disabilities
A sport is a physical activity engaged in for pleasure, which generally
involves competition. Sports benefit children and their families because sports provide not only fun but also:
helps build a child's self-image
connects people through competition
helps children to meet other children of like interests and situations
helps children with disabilities by teaching them independence as well as
helps improve health, discipline, and confidence
Sports help children with disabilities to be part of society. Sports help to
promote a focus on the child's ability versus disability. A disability is the
lack of ability or a restriction in ability to function normally -- physically or mentally.
What is the information for this topic?
Who can participate?
Many children with varied disabilities can find a sport and level of sports
that is right for them. There are sports for children with visual impairments or hearing impairments. There are sports for children with developmental delays or physical impairments. A sport is often modified for children who have differing and varying degrees of disability. It may be modified differently based on the physical or mental disabilities. For example, the same sport may be played differently for children who use a wheelchair versus children who use artificial limbs. The same sport would also be adapted for children with mental limits versus physical limits. There are often different levels of competition. Often an elite level, a competitive level, and a fun level are offered.
What kinds of sports are available?
A wide variety of sports are available to children with disabilities. The type of sport available and recommended level will vary based on the child's
abilities, needs, and interests. Many sports are geared for participation in
wheelchairs. Some of the elite and competitive sports levels use specialized
adaptive equipment. For blind athletes, the sport may be completed with the
guidance of a sighted companion.
Here are examples of different sports that children with disabilities may play:
Wheelchair basketball, for example, is one of the most popular sports for
children with disabilities. It is a team sport played on a regulation
basketball court. It can be rough because of the contact of the wheelchairs.
The rules of the sport are modified for children who are in wheelchairs. Two
pushes of the chair are allowed before the ball must be dribbled, passed, or
Swimming is popular. Many children with disabilities enjoy this sport because
they become weightless in the water. It gives some children a sense of
physical freedom. Swimming can increase muscle strength and abilities. Games
as well as organized competition can be part of swimming.
Wheelchair tennis is played on a typical tennis court. A player will need good arm strength to play this game. The rules of the sport are modified for
children who are in wheelchairs. A player gets 2 bounces of the ball on his or her side of the court. It then has to be hit back to the other player.
Bowling is done in a typical bowling facility. Some children grip and throw
the ball. Generally, a lighter bowling ball is used. Some children can use
metal or wood ramps to send the ball down the lane. Some children can use a
bowling stick. This is a pole with 4 prongs. It is used to give the ball a
push to send it down the lane.
Some of the other sports that are available are archery, soccer, shooting,
billiards, track events, field events, wheelchair racing, snow skiing, quad
rugby, ping pong, racquetball, softball, and weight lifting.
Organized sports camps may also offer a variety of sports for children with
disabilities. These camps usually have equipment to help accommodate different
disabilities to allow for children to participate and enjoy a variety of
Where to get more information?
The child and his or her parents should discuss sports options with the
healthcare provider. Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and other organizations provide information on sports for children with disabilities. These organizations can help with choosing the best sport for the child.
Associations such as the Special Olympics and the Paralympics Games provide
sports opportunities for children with disabilities.