Childhood is a formative time and participating in activities is important for kids’ development. Doing extracurricular activities outside of school is a great way for children to be social, build confidence, learn new skills and have a creative outlet. But what if your child has a disability and you’re worried about them finding a suitable activity?
What activities are right for your child with disability?
Having a disability doesn’t mean your child should miss out on fun activities. Activities like dance, sports or learning a musical instrument are building blocks that can set children up to succeed. The difficulty is finding something your child is both interested in and can sustainably enjoy, whether they have a disability or not.
There are many more factors to consider when choosing an activity if your child has a disability. For example, many children with autism dislike loud noises. Knowing this, group sports like soccer with lots of shouting and whistles might not be suitable for them. If they’re still interested in sports, you could consider rock climbing or tennis that have much less background noise and more space, so they’re more likely to enjoy themselves.
Finding the right activity will involve trial and error. Here are some other tips to help you in your search for the right activity.
Ask your child what they want to do
Asking your child what they’re interested in is a great way to get them engaged in the activity from the beginning. Giving your child options for activities they can choose from involves them in the decision-making process. You may need to try a few different types of activities to get a sense of what they like doing.
Consider your child’s strengths and abilities
Along with asking them what they’d to do, consider your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Consider what they’re good at and what might not be suitable due to their disability. They’re likely to get frustrated if they’re not able to do the activity, so this is important! You might even want to enrol your child for a few classes to start off with to see if they enjoy it.
Look into programs designed for kids with disability
Depending on your location and your child, programs specifically designed for kids with disabilities are available and might be the best option for your child. These programs often have staff trained in care for children with disabilities and include a safe environment where your child can be themselves.
Speak with the organisers
Check with the activity organisers to find out what it involves, and how it could be modified to suit your child. Is it an inclusive environment? Do the instructors/teachers have experience or training with children with disabilities? Again, you can negotiate enrolling in a few classes to start off with to see if your child enjoys it.
Speak with your child
Speaking with your child about what they’re going to be doing and showing them pictures or videos about what their new activity looks like can help take away some mystery. Explaining where they are going, who will be there and what’s going to happen is helpful for any child starting something new, especially for children with disability who are used to being in familiar environments.
Give yourself plenty of time to get there
When you’re caring for a child with disability, things can sometimes take longer to do. This is especially true for bigger activities that you may need different clothes or equipment for. Allow extra time to get to your activity, especially if it’s one of your first sessions.
It’s normal for parents of children with disability to be unsure about the idea of adding something new into their routine. It can be daunting for children in unfamiliar environments, especially if your child has a disability and are used to their daily routine. Start with one class and see how it goes. You can then add it into their schedule once they get used to it. By starting small, anxiety for parent and child can decrease, making for a more enjoyable experience overall.