Kids With Cerebral Palsy Need Recreational Activities for Their Physical & Emotional Health

special needs kids on playgroundCerebral palsy (CP) may require children to do many things differently, but having fun should not be one of them. Recreation is just as important for children with cerebral palsy as it is for those without the motor function disorder. Sports, activities, and playground recreation can help children with cerebral palsy develop better social skills, break down barriers, and build confidence. If your child has CP, do not underestimate the importance of recreational activities.

Feeding the Emotional Needs of Children With Cerebral Palsy

Physical activity can help prevent mental health problems in children with and without cerebral palsy. It can decrease the risk of depression, reduce anxiety, and improve cognitive function in children. One study found that recreation/sports one to three times per week reduces psychological distress in children by 34%, while four or more times per week reduces distress by 46%. The study concluded that physical activity is as effective as medication for mild to moderate depression or anxiety.

Recreational activity also helps build self-esteem. Stronger social relationships, a place of belonging, being an asset, and working with others toward a shared goal can all boost self-worth in children with cerebral palsy. It can help children feel more like their friends, and less isolated because of their condition. Children battling CP may suffer from negative self-image and emotional distress. Recreation can have a strong, positive impact on emotional stability, cognitive abilities, and mental health for children with or without cerebral palsy.

Recreation and Psychosocial Well-Being

Cerebral palsy can lead to social dysfunction, isolation, depression, and anxiety in affected children. A common outcome of CP is a child feeling separate from his or her peers. Sports and recreation can develop important social inclusion for children with cerebral palsy. Recreation connects children to one another and teaches the value of teamwork. It can address anti-social behaviors and encourage different types of kids and families to bond over a shared experience.

A child who struggles in social situations may find the atmosphere of recreational activity easier to navigate. Children are having fun, being physically active, and working as a team. Recreation will not feel like occupational therapy for children with CP – instead, it will be a fun part of regular life. Your child can enjoy his or her favorite recreational activity or sport while learning lifelong social skills and building lasting friendships.

Physical Benefits of Recreation for Children With Cerebral Palsy

Recreational activity is also important for the physical needs of children with cerebral palsy. While treatments such as physical therapy can help improve a child’s motor skills, flexibility, balance, and coordination, it is not the only way to do so. Recreational activities and sports can work on a child’s physical disabilities without feeling like a chore to the child. It is a form of physical activity that is fun and exhilarating for children with cerebral palsy.

Physical activity is crucial for children with cerebral palsy. Horseback riding, for example, is a common type of recreational therapy for children with CP. Being physically active in different ways can improve muscle strength and development – two major areas cerebral palsy impacts children. Furthermore, regular recreation can help prevent cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and physical injuries. Although no amount of recreation can “cure” cerebral palsy, enjoyable physical activity can be critical for development.

The ADA and Recreational Parks

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has requirements for playgrounds that mandate accessibility components for disabled children. New playgrounds must have at least some equipment disabled children can access and enjoy with ease. This makes it easier for parents of children with cerebral palsy to find safe and suitable places for recreational activity for children with physical or cognitive disabilities.

Great Places for Recreation for Children With CP in Chicago

One of the best playgrounds in Chicago for children with CP is located in Tinley Park: McCarthy Park. McCarthy Park not only adheres to ADA playground regulations, but it exceeds the bare minimums. It is a fully accessible park for children with a range of disabilities. The park district took input and ideas from families in the community when designing the playground. They also worked with an organization that promotes quality of life, the South Suburban Special Recreation Association.

McCarthy Park in Chicago has bright primary colors to act as visual stimuli for children with cerebral palsy. Instead of using mulch, the park has rubberized surfaces that make it easily accessible for children in wheelchairs or using other assistive technologies. Metal ramps help children move safely around the park, including ramps at each slide. It also has adult-sized safe swings, at the request of a father of an 18-year-old with cerebral palsy.

McCarthy Park has activities especially suited for children with special needs. It has sensory panels and drums for fun experimentation, as well as a wheelchair-accessible boat that rocks back and forth. A color wheel provides further visual stimulation for children with CP. Near the park is a ball field and sand volleyball court for sports. The park also connects to Jaycee Grove and Centennial Park. It is a great option for parents of children with cerebral palsy in Chicago.