A smiling young boy with cerebral palsy, wearing a helmet, grips the saddle blanket as he rides a horse in an arena.

Recreational activities may also support the individual with cerebral palsy’s health and wellbeing. Recreation refers to fun activities that refresh or restore the mind, spirit, and body.[1] These activities include connecting with oneself, the outdoors, or participating within a group. Sometimes it can be hard to find recreational activities for yourself or a loved one with cerebral palsy, but do not give up! There are many places that offer fun for all abilities.

Recreational activities also often involve movement, which may offer multiple benefits for people with cerebral palsy, such as:

For example, indoor rock climbing is a form of recreation and a great way for people with cerebral palsy to become more active and improve their functional abilities.[3]

A smiling young boy with cerebral palsy, wearing a helmet, grips the saddle blanket as he rides a horse in an arena.

Other examples of recreation:

  • Fishing
  • Surfing
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Horseback riding
  • Gaming
  • Going to camps
  • And more!

While competitive sports and exercise provide valuable opportunities for physical activity, recreation can support a sustained lifetime of overall health and wellbeing as recreational activities may become lifelong hobbies. Also, in some cases children with a disability may prefer more informal activities such as dancing or playing on a playground compared to traditional sports.[4]

Cerebral Palsy and Recreation: Encouraging Participation

A young girl with cerebral palsy uses a standing frame as she smiles up at her instructor while they hold hands and dance.People with cerebral palsy who have families, partners or spouses that are active participants in recreational activities are more likely to participate in recreation individually, as well as with friends and family.[5][6] It can also reduce family stress.[4]

Camp RAD (Recreation for Adolescents with Disabilities) is a community-based camp that teaches skills that foster successful, healthy transitions from school to the community for youth ages 10-23. Kyler, age 25, GMFCS V, began participating in Camp RAD 9 years ago. Currently, he is in his fourth year as a counselor. He
began participating because it was an opportunity for him to see his friends, but now he takes ownership of his responsibilities as a counselor and stays active year-round.

A smiling young boy with cerebral palsy is seated on a rollator in a crowded venue with multiple chairs and folding tables.

Ben Perry (above) will graduate with multiple awards and honors from high school in May 2021. This picture was taken 8 years ago, at Ben’s first summer with Camp RAD. He has since gone on to serve on multiple advisory boards for accessible recreational facilities and completed a major project at his high school to ensure an accessible recreational space for students. He is currently preparing to attend college.

Community-based programs such as Camp RAD are important for adults like Kyler, as young adults with cerebral palsy face barriers in the form of physical/structural, policy, and attitudinal barriers to recreation and physical activity. These types of barriers can come in the form of lack of time, physical impairments to activity, and lack of activity options that are enjoyable.[8] While many communities may lack opportunities for accessible recreation, there are ways to overcome these barriers.

New programs can be developed by partnering with:

  • local community organizations
  • hospitals
  • schools
  • parks and recreation
  • centers and universities

The National Center for Health Physical Activity, Disability and Health (NCHPAD) has developed the Community Health Inclusion Index (CHII) to help communities gather information for planning purposes to include people with disabilities into existing structures and programs.

There as some additional resources that provide important information regarding ADA guidelines for public facilities:

Cerebral Palsy and Recreation Resources

Directories of Adaptive Activities & Camps

Adaptive Programs and Unique Places

The information from this page appears in our free and downloadable cerebral palsy tool kit.

References and Sources
  1. Yazicioglu, K., Yavuz, F., Goktepe, A., & Tan, A. (2012, October). Influence of adapted sports on quality of life and life satisfaction in sport participants and non-sport participants with physical disabilities. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23021735/
  2. Martin, J., & Shapiro, D. (2010, April). Athletic identity, affect, and peer relations in youth athletes with physical disabilities. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21122772/
  3. Lexell, J., & Sahlin, K. (2015, October). Impact of organized sports on activity, participation, and quality of life in people with NEUROLOGIC Disabilities. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25828205/
  4. Winnick, J. (2016, September 13). Adapted physical education. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www.amazon.com/Adapted-Physical-Education-Joseph-Winnick/dp/1492511536
  5. CPISRA (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://cpisra.org/
  6. Worldwide paralympic partners. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www.paralympic.org/classification
  7. Dear colleague letter from Acting Assistant secretary for civil RIGHTS Seth M. Galanter. (2020, September 02). Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201304.html
  8. Dayle Marie Comerford, A Call for NCAA Adapted Sports Championships: Following the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s Lead to Nationalize Collegiate Athletic Opportunities for Student-Athletes with Disabilities, 28 Marq. Sports L. Rev. 525 (2018)
    Available at: https://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/sportslaw/vol28/iss2/10
  9. NCAA. (2020, May 14). Student-athletes with disabilities. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/inclusion/student-athletes-disabilities
  10. Team USA. (n.d.). Paralympic sport development. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www.teamusa.org/team-usa-athlete-services/paralympic-sport-development