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Gail Troussoff Marks
Gymnastics For Special Needs Children
Silver Stars Gymnastics

Gymnastics For Special Needs Children

A gymnastics class on a busy weekday night is hardly the environment that a parent or therapist would think that a special needs child could handle, especially one with any sensory sensitivities. However, classes are available for kidswho cannot manage a typical class. These classes have included kids with cerebral palsy, autism, Downs syndrome, low muscle tone, and a variety of developmental challenges. The classes are small or one-on-one depending on the childs needs.
Why gymnastics for
your special needs child?
As for any child, gymnastics promotes whole body flexibility and strength. Balance is a major component of gymnastics, as well. Forward rolls, walking across a balance beam, jumping on a trampoline all of these require awareness and control of ones body. Gymnastics is a sport built on progressions. Skills are broken down into steps and taught one-by-one. All of these components are useful to a child with special needs. and work within a busy gym.
Gymnastics builds upper body strength by using apparatus such as parallel bars, monkey bars, and rings and rope for swinging. Handstands against a mat also build upper body strength. Trampolines provide aerobic activity and proprioceptive input, sending sensory data through the legs and core muscles. Practice with balance, motor planning, and crossing mid-line occurs in many obstacle courses or stations that are used within class. A child who has been to occupational therapy or physical therapy may see familiar equipment used in multiple ways.
With many special needs children in a range of therapies, gymnastics may be viewed as simply a chance for added physical activity. However, there can be other benefits. Gymnastics classes offer additional experience with social contacts, regulation, sensory input, speech, and language skills. The large space, noise, and hustle and bustle of the lobby gives children experience with large public places. The allure of the trampoline or their favorite equipment is motivation to cope with many obstacles.
With patience and persistence almost all the kids adapt and manage the noise and environment. Children can even use headphones for a bit until they can adapt.
Most skills and movements are demonstrated, as well as explained verbally,so children get information from multi-sensory methods. Warm-up time often invites opportunities for speech. Even with non-verbal children, they are almost constantly given feedback on how they are doing or explaining a skill.
Gymnastics can be an appropriate and useful activity for a special needs child, as long as care is taken to find a program that works forthe child.Families may have the chance to enroll siblings in classes at the same time, with the special needs child in one class and the sibling in another class.Physical activity can foster growthacross a variety of developmental challenges andprovide the health benefits of exercise.Perhaps, the most compelling reason to try gymnastics is that in an appropriate class,kids have fun.When kids are engaged and having fun, growth occurs.

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