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

Written by alicia turner
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How to change games & sports to adapt to children with special needs
Children with disabilities can participate fully in sports that are modified for their needs. (Amos Morgan/Photodisc/Getty Images)

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.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    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.

  2. 2

    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.

  3. 3

    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.

  4. 4

    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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