Benefits of Track & Field For Children and Adults With Special Needs
The opportunity to participate in track and field events is one of the greatest ways to improve health physically and emotionally. Everyone can benefit from physical exercise, team effort, perseverance, companionship, and establishing and accomplishing goals; however, special needs individuals must work additionally hard at conquering obstacles and cultivating a spirit of friendly competition, both of which will carry over into other areas of life.
When choosing a track and field activity for your special needs child, consider his or her developmental age first, not physical age alone. Physical limitations or impairments in sight or hearing may require adaptive equipment or special modifications. Your child’s personality and potential responsiveness to a coach or teammates may determine the pace or number of participants that he or she is comfortable interacting with. Keep in mind your child’s interests by including him or her in the decision-making process. Lessen any uneasiness ahead of time by familiarizing your child with the rules and simplifying instructions in a way that won’t overwhelm them.
Many programs institute a buddy system. Older students are often paired with younger special needs children to participate together in the event of their choice–training together, competing together, encouraging each other. Special needs youth have the satisfaction of a one-on-one teammate with a sense of readiness and accomplishment that he or she would not have acquired without the support of their buddy. In addition, a partner makes transitions more comfortable and provides an example to follow.
Track and field can be modified to most disabilities, even though some special needs kids may require adaptive equipment or special conditions. For tossing events, like javelin or discus, a modified set of rules may apply for wheelchair participants. On the track, visually impaired participants may use a guide runner or parallel bars around the course to help lead. Strobe lighting or flags signal hearing impaired runners to start off. Races may be between athletes of varying disabilities. Programs like Unified Sports mix non-special needs individuals jumping over hurdles with wheelchair athletes racing alongside or around cones.
The benefits of track and field are many. Such activity
- Sustains proper body weight
- Promotes better coordination
- Improves balance
- Focuses attention
- Teaches to drown out interruptions
- Trains to work with basic coaching instructions
- Focuses behavioral actions and boosts spirits
- Works off unproductive energy
- Provides adjustment to unexpected situations and new circumstances
- Develops more regulated patterns of sleep
- Adapts to multitasking
- Gives clearer mind and mental focus
- Teaches self-restraint
- Provides teamwork in controlled amounts
- Builds self-reliance
- Accomplishes specific objectives
- Motivates others
Be the Best Sport loves to see our athletes grow in all these areas! Our track and field program offers training in the following events: form and formula running, 200 meter run, 4×100 and other relays, long jump, obstacle course, hurdles, javelin, and shot put to name a few. Safety is a number one concern, so our track and field is individualized to accommodate each child’s special need. Our athletes will learn a variety of new events as well as have fun, make friends, and build confidence in the process.