"Mens sana in corpore sana". This Latin quote usually translates to "a healthy mind in a healthy body". This is a mantra for many people in sports, and we can apply it to all moments of our life, including childhood.
However, playing sports is not always easy for children with mobility limitations or with some type of disability.
In these cases, family members and education and health professionals (teachers, free time monitors, doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists, etc.) should join forces to motivate kids to focus on physical activity, and one of the ways to do this is by familiarising them with sports in a wheelchair that may be attractive to them.
Benefits of wheelchair sports for children
According to experts, children with disabilities who play adapted sports have better school performance, increase their self-esteem and more easily internalise concepts such as teamwork or goal setting.
In addition, children with disabilities who play sports learn leadership skills, develop a greater capacity to socialise with other children their age, channel their energy better, and have more self-control.
On the other hand, the practise of exercise provides children with disabilities with a better development of their physical and motor skills, including balance, regulation of muscle tone, coordination, spatial location or laterality.
Wheelchair sports: how to choose the most suitable for your children?
Choosing the best wheelchair sport for your children depends on many factors, such as what is available in your community and location.
Currently, many schools and leisure centers develop programs that include the practice of adapted sports such as soccer, basketball and other games. In addition, many sports clubs (tennis, cycling, rugby, etc.) have adapted sports sections that can be interesting for the little ones in the house to start practicing.
In other cases, when there are no sports activities exclusively for children in wheelchairs, it is possible to seek inclusive adapted sports solutions that include children with and without disabilities.
In this situation, it is essential that parents and coaches have a realistic approach: Parents must understand that their children may not be able to enter the standard competitions, although they can enter the special leagues. If a child has relationship or behavior problems, a good option is to start with individual sports such as swimming or track where they can feel more comfortable.
Moreover, teammates should be informed of the disability of their new partner and their limitations.
In all these cases, creativity is key so that children can practice a sport in a wheelchair safely, lowering the basketball hoops or allowing children with disabilities to dodge or avoid obstacles that their non-disabled peers can jump over.
Tips to motivate children in wheelchairs to play sports
1. Show your support
One of the key ways to make sports practice easier is to turn them into recreational activities. Obviously they have a competitive part, but if we are able to teach children to improve and not continuously compare themselves with others, it is easier for them to end up making sport a hobby. Also, remember that many times the difficult thing is not to start a sport, but to maintain your practice over time.
2. Let them choose which sport to practice
Many parents choose sports for their children that they really like. However, the best way to motivate them is the opposite: the ideal is to offer them several options and for them to choose and try. Thus, they will feel that the activity is a personal choice and they will enjoy it much more.
3. Teach them that sport is a form of leisure
When sports become an obligation, they can end up causing some rejection. Therefore, one of the tips for your child to start practicing a sport in a wheelchair is to show them that sport is another form of leisure in which they can interact and socialize with other children.
4. Explain its benefits
Children with disabilities should be aware of the benefits that playing sports can give to them. In this case, it is important to share with them the advantages of being in shape and that exercise can help their physical situation.
5. Look for inspiring examples
We all know children imitate the behaviours of others around them. If they see their parents or siblings doing some kind of sport, they will be curious and will be encouraged to experience it.
In the case of children with disabilities, it is also advisable that they have references of people with the same limitations practicing sports. Discover the stories of outstanding athletes and athletes with disabilities in their disciplines. Our Sunrise ambassadors include: Teresa Perales (swimming), Sergio Garrote, Diego Ballesteros, Martin Berchesi (handbike), Rafa Botello (athletics) or Javier Reja (canoeing). Sports clubs, associations and federations are also a perfect environment for children to learn first-hand about the experiences of athletes in wheelchairs.
At Sunrise Medical, we offer the entire Zippie range of manual wheelchairs and electric wheelchairs, as well as the Leckey range of sitting and standing products designed for any level of disability that will accompany the child in their growth from their early years to adulthood.