5 Tips for Helping Special Needs Kids Stay Active

My step-daughter Kilee isn’t motivated by a need to compete, she doesn’t recognize the need to achieve a healthy physique and she has trouble initiating activities. She also very much suffers from inertia. If she’s sitting with her beloved dinosaurs, she’d quite happily sit with them for a good part of the day. Everything from getting up and moving around the house, to taking a walk or going to the gym seems to be a lot more effort than for the other three kids in our family.

Our very fit and active family has worked with Kilee and her caregivers to get her on, and keep her on, a regular schedule of daily physical activity. Here are some things we’re doing to help Kilee be active on a regular basis.

1. MOVE TO THE BEAT. First of all, we’re aiming for five times a week physical activity. Kilee doesn’t like the elliptical machine, but she loves music. So, we encourage her by breaking her workout time into songs. She either has an eight-song workout or a five-song workout. Once on the elliptical, she is quite happy to bob around to Lady Gaga and clap her hands to Pink.

2. TAKE THE DOG. Kilee loves our dogs Otis and Blue. We go on an hour uphill hike, and the endpoint is a little pond where she can throw all the sticks she has gathered on the walk. This gives her something to look orward to and our dogs never tire of launching into the pond to Kilee’s delight.

3. MAKE IT SOCIAL. Kilee also attends several Special Olympic sports. Although she is active there, she doesn’t sustain her heart rate at the needed levels to build aerobic fitness. We look at her outings as a great social outlet and some great additional physical activity. She especially loves track, where she can throw the shot put, and do the warm-up exercises with her buddies.

4. GO OUTSIDE. Kilee loves outdoor activities, so we regularly take her skiing in the winter and swimming in the summer. There are many things we enjoy doing with Kilee and she is certainly more active than most of her peers, and yet consistency remains a struggle.

5. KEEP TRACK. With Kilee, I find monitoring her physical activity levels is something we have to constantly tune into. Like all other aspects of Kilee’s life, it’s important that we take inventory every couple of months on how much activity she is getting, and what we need to do to make her experience positive.

I passionately believe that physical activity helps children with special needs even more than cognitively or physically “normal” kids. Building a healthy body and healthy mind is a priority for all kids, and when it comes to children with special needs, they may just need a little more support.

You can check out the entire article at Healthier You.