It’s Spring: Time to Get Kids with Cerebral Palsy Moving

In the News, Tips for Parents, Updates

By Lee Vander Loop

In spring, parents start thinking about recreational activities for their children. The disabilities community is no different. Medical research and personal experience show that people with disabilities benefit greatly when they participate in community recreation programs and settings.

Following is information about the importance of physical activity for children and adults with physical impairment, links to organizations that offer activities, adaptive equipment resources and air travel information.

Find your state and local sports and recreation programs in our Resource Directory.

Importance of Physical Activity

  • The  U.S. Surgeon General’s report indicated that all people can benefit from physical activity. People with disabilities and chronic illnesses have a tendency to be less active due to their physical limitations. This inactivity can lead to decreased cardio-respiratory fitness, osteoporosis, increased dependence on others, a decrease in social interactions and secondary complications.
  • The primary physical activity goals for individuals with disabilities are to increase physical functioning and enhance health and well being.
  • Sports, social events, nature, camaraderie, friendship and overcoming physical and psychological challenges are vital building blocks of early childhood development. Sports, activities and social interactions and events offer children of all abilities avenues for growth.

Accessible Recreation

Many states throughout the country have made efforts to accommodate the special needs populations of their communities with adaptive and accessible recreational and sporting activities. “Open the Outdoors” is a nationwide effort to provide disabled individuals with accessible recreational opportunities. Many of our National Forests provide accessible recreation such as wheelchair accessible campsites, restrooms and trails. Contact any state Department of Natural Resources or Parks and Recreation for brochures and information on accessible parks, adaptive and accessible sports and recreation programs in that state.

The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, The National Center on Accessibility and the Adaptive Sports Foundation are all examples of national efforts to promote access and inclusion for people with disabilities in parks, recreation and tourism.  Based at Indiana University, and established in 1992 through a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service, NCA has emerged as a leading authority on access issues unique to park and recreation programs and facilities.

Adaptive Sports and Recreation

Many times adaptive equipment is made available or can be purchased from a variety of manufacturers and suppliers, to provide for a safe, enjoyable experience.

  • A large variety of sporting activities have been made available as a result of adaptive equipment and instruction.
  • Skiing, bowling, archery, hunting, fishing and sailing are just a few recreational activities that offer adaptive participation.
  • Playgrounds are being constructed with accessibility being the focus in architectural design.
  • The Adaptive Sports Foundation boasts the largest adaptive sporting program on the East Coast and is considered among the top adaptive programs in the country.  The Adaptive Sports Foundation offers both winter and summer sporting events and programs.
  • The Special Olympics programs can be found in every state and many communities around the country. Today Special Olympics consist of almost 3 million athletes in more than 180 countries around the world.

Many volunteers from the private sector help to provide funding and support for many programs. One example is the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Access to Recreation grant program, which has provided $15 million in funding to 36 recreation projects in four Midwestern states over the last three years. Projects were selected based on:

  • Their concepts for embracing universal design
  • Opportunity to facilitate inclusion of people of all abilities
  • Opportunity to serve as an example of universal design to community planners, recreation practitioners and advocates

Many nonprofit organizations such as United Cerebral Palsy, YMCA, Arc of the United States and Easterseals offer a variety of adaptive and accessible recreational programs for youth and adults with disabilities in many states and locations.

Air Travel

For air travelers, the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) was passed to eliminate accessibility barriers for disabled passengers traveling on commercial air carriers. Information from the carrier provides people who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids with all the information they need to have a safe and enjoyable flight.

Information, Publications and Resources

Online information such as Gimp on the Go provides publications and information for a large variety of accessible destinations and recreational opportunities.  The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD) is an information center concerned with physical activity and disability. The NCPAD provides free monthly electronic newsletters on a variety of fitness and recreational activities as well as online links to Fun and Leisure Activities through the country.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The 2005 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Improve the Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities: Calling You to Action. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2005
American Association of Adapted Sports, adaptedSPORTS Model
Adaptive Sports Foundation, Adaptive Sports Center
Easterseals,  Fun with a Purpose
National Center on Physical Activity and disability(NCPAP), FACT SHEET,  Durstine, J. Larry, et al “Physical Activity for the Chronically Ill and Disabled“, Sports Medicine 2000 30.3: 207-219z
The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability, NCPAP, Fun and Leisure
National Sports Center for the Disabled, NSCD National Sports Center for Disabled – Adaptive Sports
Special Olympics, Special Olympics Home
United Cerebral Palsy, Sports and Leisure

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