Is Sports a Game Changer for Your Atypical Child?

It’s spring and sports season is heating up.  For many families of atypical children, this is a stressful and maybe even sorrowful time.  6454232_s

Why? Because many atypical children have so much difficulty participating in mainstream sports activities.  This can be difficult for parents who fondly recall their own involvement with sports and deeply want their children to experience the same joy, camaraderie and health benefits.  Despite the fact that parents are well aware of  the importance of sports and exercise for children, many atypical children will end up at home in front of video games for a variety of reasons, either smarting from previous defeat, humiliation, or injury from a group sport, or fearful to try a sport, or simply uninterested.  And while there are a lot of good reasons to participate in sports,  there are also a lot of good reasons to protect your child from a sport that he or she may not be able to manage, especially competitive sports.  Issues such as sensory overload, processing difficulties, coordination difficulties,  ADHD or excessive shyness can contribute to a sense of ‘why even bother’ or a real fear that your child might become injured, humiliated or just not be able to ‘get it’.

“Limits will not define me, my will defines my limits”

This is the slogan of Bounce Out The Stigma, a sports opportunity for children with all types of special needs.  Mike Simmel started The Bounce Out the Stigma Project, Inc. in 2005 as a grassroots campaign to educate the public, teach healthy lifestyle choices and empower youth, based on his personal experiences.  He created the program that provides sport events and summer camps for children, regardless of which label they have. it is these labels that holds them back, not their ability, according to Mike.  Currently he offers programming for children with Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder ADD /ADHD, Bullying Events that Create Peer Mistrust, Epilepsy, Slow Motor Skills, Athletic Anxieties, Social Unease, Juvenille Diabetes,  Learning Disabilities, Self Esteem Issues, Adjustment and Emotional difficulties. You can learn more about Mike and his project at:  http://bounceoutthestigma.org/

While not every neighborhood can offer a program for every type of disability,  there are enough sports activities in every city to get all types of children involved.  Think beyond the typical big team sports if you haven’t been able to get your child involved in the top competitive sports.  Not every child needs a team sport but all children do benefit from movement. Think swimming, jogging, biking, or even participation in 5K walks with families for special charities. Don’t forget trips to the beach, an introduction to surfing,  miniature golf, or tennis or ping pong.  Some kids have success in martial arts or yoga or gymnastics.

Special Olympics offers opportunities in a variety of sports for individuals with intellectual disabilities; The Little League Challenger Division and the Miracle League both allow children with physical and mental disabilities to play baseball in a supportive, non-competitive environment.  These are but a few suggestions.

And the best sport of all, being outdoors with mom or dad.  Take a ball or a frisbee to a park or a picnic lunch to the top of a short hiking trail.  You will be creating positive memories and healthy habits for a lifetime, for the both of you.

What role did sports play in your children’s lives? Please share your experience so other families can learn from you!

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