How to change games & sports to adapt to children with special needs

Updated July 20, 2017

Since the 1970s, federal law has required schools to integrate children with disabilities into all aspects of school life to the greatest extent possible. This requirement extends to sports and physical education, as well. Modifying games or activities so that children with special needs can participate is a part of adaptive physical education. Using one or more of these suggested modifications can create activities that all children, disabled and non-disabled, can enjoy.

Use specialised equipment. Different companies offer a wealth of options for children with disabilities, like all-terrain wheelchairs, lighter rackets for tennis or badminton or balls with beepers inside for children who are visually impaired. PE Central, a website for physical educators, also has a list of suggestions for making homemade equipment, like using a dowel rod and a 2-liter soda bottle to create a bat with a large hitting surface.

Adjust the rules of the game to accommodate students with disabilities. Texas Woman's University, which offers a major in adaptive physical education, has several suggestions, such as keeping basketball quarters to 5 or 6 minutes or limiting bowling to four or five frames for children who don't have the stamina for longer matches.

Shrink the size of the area where the game or sport is played. For example, in golf, this may mean decreasing the number of holes that are played or placing the holes closer to tees. Other examples would be allowing children playing tennis to stand closer to the net when they serve or reducing the distance between bases in softball or baseball.

Change the equipment that is normally used for the sport. This can help instructors adapt games and activities for children with special needs without buying anything new. You could use inflatable beach balls for volleyball or soccer games, suggests PE Central.

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About the Author

Alicia Turner has worked in journalism for more than 20 years. She has served as a reporter for publications such as the "Roanoke Times" and the "Tallahassee Democrat," covering local politics, transportation and education. Turner holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism.