If your child has a disability, you already know that tasks which seem everyday for many parents can feel like insurmountable obstacles. A disability can complicate things. Daily tasks such as showering, eating, or cleaning up a bedroom can be incredibly difficult for a child with a disability. Exercise, in particular, can be a hard routine to break into. Doctors recommend that children get their hearts pumping every day, but that’s often easier said than done.
But there’s lots of hope. Kids with disabilities often overcome enormous odds to achieve their goals, and with your support, your child get the exercise he or she needs. Here are a few ideas for parents to help a child with a disability to get active.
Listen to the Doctor
First of all, it is absolutely crucial that you follow the advice of your child’s doctor. Physicians tend to have a range of experience with patients of many abilities, and they likely have some useful things to recommend, both for and against. Take notes at appointments, ask questions, and take home any pamphlets you’re given to read later.
If the doctor recommends a physical therapy regimen, make sure your child completes it as written as often as recommended. Physical therapy can be the essential element that prevents a condition from worsening over the course of a person’s life.
Similarly, avoid any exercise the doctor recommends against. Burning a couple calories won’t be helpful if it leads to long-term harm. If you’re unsure whether or not an activity will be accessible, look it up ahead of time and ask questions.
Find Kids With Similar Disabilities
Lots of kids have disabilities. And most communities offer a host of resources with which parents can connect and encourage meetups between their kids. For a child with a disability, meeting another young person with the same or similar condition can be deeply empowering and inspiring.
Exercise will be a lot more fun for your child if he or she is able to do it with other people. Because disabilities so frequently involve physical restrictions, many disabled people can have a tough time working out with other children, many of whom will not understand those physical restrictions.
On the other hand, many children with disabilities can do just fine—and even excel—at physical activities with nondisabled children. Additionally, some children with disabilities may feel excluded and “fenced off” if prevented from participating from the events that other kids do. So seek out others with similar conditions, but be careful you don’t make your child feel alienated.
Let Your Child Go at Their Own Pace
Don’t push your kid too hard. Exercise can be a challenge for anyone, and disabilities make things just that much harder. Encourage your young one, but accept limits and avoid shaming your child by making unrealistic demands. And remember that if you really want him or her to begin a lifelong exercise habit, you’ll have more success if you let it be fun.
And, of course, if your kid wants to go that extra mile, encourage it! Hard work is its own rewarding, and accomplishing a tricky goal can be hugely empowering to someone with a disability. Positivity is power!