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. 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:
- Improved strength
- Cardiovascular health
- Quality of life
- Improved range of motion
- Fuller participation in life.
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.
Other examples of recreation:
- Horseback riding
- 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.
Cerebral Palsy and Recreation: Encouraging Participation
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. It can also reduce family stress.
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.
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. 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
- 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:
- What to Know Before You Go: The Big Questions to Ask Before Arriving at Your “Accessible” Recreation Destination
- You’re Here, Now What? Making Self-Advocacy Work For You In Recreation Settings
Cerebral Palsy and Recreation Resources
Directories of Adaptive Activities & Camps
- AccessSportAmerica– A national non-profit organization founded in 1995, inspires higher function and fitness for children and adults of all disabilities through high-challenge sports and training.
- Accessible Trails
- American Camp Association– You may search a database of camps here. Their database allows you to limit your search criteria to include specifics such as catering to certain diagnoses, location, activities, cost etc.
- Blaze Sports International Directory of Programs
- Jooay– The Canadian app allows people to learn about recreation opportunities in their area.
- Discover Camp– A resource guide for parents of children with disabilities selecting a camp for their child for the first time.
- Easter Seals Camp Directory
- Inclusive Recreation Resource Center
- Move United– A national directory of adaptive sports near you.
- The National Center on Physical Activity & Disability– You may find the regional guide helpful
- National Park Service Accessibility
- SeriousFun Children’s Network– “Play with purpose”, 30 camps and programs worldwide.
- Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (SATH)
- National directory of wheelchair accessible trails– This is a free service of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which is a non-profit dedicated to helping local communities to convert unused railroad corridors into trails.
Adaptive Programs and Unique Places
- ArtShop– Therapeutic art lessons for children and adults with disabilities.
- Adaptive Adventures
- Adaptive Bowling– This link is the host site for the American Wheelchair Bowling Association (AWBA).
- Adaptive Cycling– Check out the“Bikes, Toys & Gadgets” section of the site for more information on vendors and related products.
- Adaptive Ice Hockey
- Adaptive Skiing and Snowboarding by Adaptive Adventures
- Baseball-Miracle League
- Berkshire Hills Music Academy
- Blaze Sports– Provides direct service nationally and internationally in developing countries. BlazeSports is also affiliated with local BlazeSports teams/programs in more than 60 communities and 29 states and the District of Columbia.
- Boccia– Today Boccia is a played competitively at national and international level by athletes who require a wheelchair because of their disability. In its current form, Boccia was originally played by athletes with cerebral palsy, but now includes athletes with other disabilities which affect motor skills.
- Boundless Playgrounds
- The British Paraorchestra– Conductor Charles Hazlewood was inspired to create the Paraorchestra by his young daughter who has cerebral palsy. He wished to model it after the Paralympics by creating a platform for talented disabled musicians at the top of their game.
- Chickenshed Theatre– London, Inclusive theatre company
- Disney World
- Move United– Their mission is to provide affordable inclusive physical and recreational activities that build health and confidence.
- I-Skate adaptive skating program with Dorothy Hamill
- Lakeshore Foundation– Lakeshore Foundation offers a wide range of fitness, recreation, athletic and education programs to children and adults with physical disabilities.
- Land and Sea Sports Club– Westhampton Beach, NY
- Let All Children Play Foundation
- Lose the Training Wheels– This is a bike camp with over 80 locations across the country. Their mission is to teach children with disabilities to ride a two-wheel bicycle and become life-long independent riders. Check out the “indicators for success” to determine your child’s suitability for their program.
- Morgan’s Wonderland
- National Center on Physical Activity and Disability
- Push to Open Nature Society– Canada
- Therapeutic Adventures– Charlottesville, VA
- Therapeutic Horseback Riding
- Wampler Foundation– The Wampler Foundation was started with the mission of providing a one of a kind wilderness experience to physically disabled children nationwide.
- Yoga for special needs children
For more information about cerebral palsy and recreation, download our free cerebral palsy tool kit.
References and Sources
- 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/
- 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/
- 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/
- Winnick, J. (2016, September 13). Adapted physical education. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www.amazon.com/Adapted-Physical-Education-Joseph-Winnick/dp/1492511536
- CPISRA (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://cpisra.org/
- Worldwide paralympic partners. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www.paralympic.org/classification
- 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
- 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
- NCAA. (2020, May 14). Student-athletes with disabilities. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/inclusion/student-athletes-disabilities
- Team USA. (n.d.). Paralympic sport development. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www.teamusa.org/team-usa-athlete-services/paralympic-sport-development