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Recreation Tips for Students with Physical Disabilities

written by: Barbara • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 7/12/2012

Recreation is important in every student's life. Creating an activity plan for students with physical disabilities will improve their physical health, cognitive abilities and social peer relationships. Students with physical disabilities need to play and have fun just like any other student.

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    Types of Physical Activities: Modifications for Physically Disabled Students

    For students with disabilities having a conversation with friends about what to do in their free time, might leave room for pause, if the student is in a wheelchair, on crutches or limited in movement abilities. However, physical activities can be modified for mutual engagement given the right activity and modification. Here are a few sample activities for students with physical disabilities and their non-disabled peers:

    Physical Activities with Modifications

    • Basketball- Give two students a basketball and watch the action from the sidelines. If students in a wheelchair can maneuver the chair, then game is on for a physical activity where the only modification might be a lighter wheelchair built for recreational sports and setting the net down to mid-pole level so that younger students in wheelchairs can wheel by and slam dunk the ball anytime they want to create a roar from their peers.
    • Table Tennis: Lower the table and let the fun begin for students in wheelchairs or on crutches. If they can balance and stretch their arms across the table to stop and hit a tiny little ball with an oversized racket, then they can play table tennis since the action requires more finesse in upper body movement than finesse in moving the chair or even the crutches. Make sure that there is an Instructional Assistant (IA) present to catch a student who may lose his/her balance with the momentum of the fun.
    • Canoeing: If students like the water and have good upper body strength, then maybe canoeing is the fun sport for them. Make sure that students are strapped in and supported in the canoe and are wearing a safety vest in case the canoe overturns and as always have an IA there to provide additional coverage and support.
    • Bowling: Teachers can simulate bowling activities in the classroom using a tennis ball and stacked Styrofoam cups to provide students with physical disabilities loads of fun with their non-disabled peers. One good arm is all it takes to score a strike.
    • Playground Activities: There are a number of playground activities like sponge dodgeball and football madness with a soccer ball where toss and movement are core to the activities. Keep the activities manageable with many winning moments, maximum engagement and lots of laughter to make playground time fun for elementary students with physical disabilities.

    With any activity, safety should be first and foremost in creating the rules of the activity, monitoring the inclusion and participation of all students in the activity, and insuring that students with physical disabilities can count recreation in school as part of the fun part of social peer engagement and school attendance. Remember that students with physical disabilities can have recreation fun too!