Promoting the participation of children with disabilities in sports, recreation, and physical activities.

The benefits of physical activity are universal for all children, including those with disabilities. The participation of children with disabilities in sports and recreational activities promotes inclusion, minimizes deconditioning, optimizes physical functioning, and enhances overall well-being. Despite these benefits, children with disabilities are more restricted in their participation, have lower levels of fitness, and have higher levels of obesity than their peers without disabilities. Pediatricians and parents may overestimate the risks or overlook the benefits of physical activity in children with disabilities. Well-informed decisions regarding each child’s participation must consider overall health status, individual activity preferences, safety precautions, and availability of appropriate programs and equipment. Health supervision visits afford pediatricians, children with disabilities, and parents opportunities to collaboratively generate goal-directed activity “prescriptions.” Child, family, financial, and societal barriers to participation need to be directly identified and addressed in the context of local, state, and federal laws. The goal is inclusion for all children with disabilities in appropriate activities. This clinical report discusses the importance of physical activity, recreation, and sports participation for children with disabilities and offers practical suggestions to pediatric health care professionals for the promotion of participation.