The Benefits of a Holistic Approach in Sport Programming for Youth with Disabilities

Mar 13, 2014
Tagged with: The Benefits of a Holistic Approach in Sport Programming for Youth with Disabilities

I recently came across the article, Sports program for kids with special needs, featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution section on Doing Good Metro Atlantans Helping Others.  This article highlights a new sports program for children with physical and/or cognitive disabilities established in the Atlanta area called Exceptional Kids Athletics.  What I gathered from this article is that Exceptional Kids Athletics takes a holistic approach in their sport programming.

They utilize trained volunteers to offer sport programs, allowing the parents of kids involved to enjoy their experience without the need to be the coach or caregiver.  Often times in youth sports, and even more so for youth with disabilities, parents are pulled in to coach, assist, or volunteer in some way.  While it is understood that parents oftentimes want to be involved in their kids’ extracurricular activities and should be, this idea provides a much needed time of respite and enjoyment as the trained volunteers take the lead in coaching and engaging kids in physical activities. 

Another aspect of Exceptional Kids Athletics that helps create a holistic approach is the inclusion of disability awareness training and parent gatherings.  Disability awareness training is essential for volunteers to effectively work with kids with disabilities and provide beneficial programming without the parent having to play a caregiver role during the program.  It also ensures that age-appropriate programming and communication is used along with respectful person-first terminology.  Parent gatherings are another essential component to creating a holistic approach in sport programming for youth with disabilities.  The ability to converse with parents and families with similar experiences builds relationships and a community of support. 

The benefits of sport participation for youth with disabilities includes higher self-esteem, better body image, higher rates of academic success, team building skills, improved flexibility, mobility and coordination, prevention of secondary conditions associated with disability, and increased stamina and strength.  It’s arguable that these are the same benefits for ALL youth and that they are really limitless.  People with disabilities have a right to fitness and a right to equal opportunities in sports!  It is through grassroots programs such as Exceptional Kids Athletics that people with disabilities are able to exercise this right and potentially reap benefits that spread beyond physical fitness to well-being by including a holistic approach for the whole family. 

How is your organization or program including volunteers to create a holistic approach in sport for youth with disabilities? 

Author: Allison Hoit