We hear from our Children’s Physiotherapist and Champion for Inclusive Play, Liz Cowan
“Hands up who would describe themselves as physically active? My hand goes up a little, I mean I have a dog that I walk and I enjoy hill walking and occasionally running but I know that I do not do enough regular exercise to be in line with government health guidelines. I am a physio, I have no physical impairments, and I think of myself as “sporty” (Scottish Girls Badminton Doubles Champion, 1981 no less!), yet I am not doing enough.
Now, hands up if you are a young person with a disability and you would describe yourself as physically active? Parents, you can answer for your child if you want. According to the Association of Paediatric Physiotherapists there are around 11 million disabled people in the UK. Only two in ten disabled people in England are currently active! For young disabled people, there are far more barriers (perceived and actual) to sport and recreation than there are for the general population, thus the figures are really no surprise.
But sport is FUN, right? And participating, being part of a team or a club, has many additional benefits in terms of developing confidence, teamwork, and life skills, etc. And for a young person with a disability many of the side effects of the disability (such as muscle weakness, hip dislocation, spinal curves) may be delayed or reduced by being more physically active.
As we draw towards Autumn, and a “new season” of sport begins, wouldn’t it be nice to find a club or sporting activity near to you, and set yourself a challenge increasing you and your child’s activity levels? And don’t worry if you answered No to the “sport is fun, right?” question – I get that. Not everyone naturally loves sport. I have two children and one of them “is a reader not a runner” as she tells me …. how can someone so different to me have come from me I ask? But even she is enjoying sport – she likes fishing. Fishing is quite a sedentary sport in that she doesn’t use her legs much, but of course there is a lot of trunk and upper limb activity. We have found something she likes that gets her out and active, and doesn’t even need Wi-Fi! (check out the British Disabled Angling Association: www.bdaa.co.uk) There is an activity out there for all of us, why not try something new?”
Resources That May Help
“There is a lot of information on the internet about what sports are available, where they are, and whether they are accessible. There are a variety of activities for every physical and cognitive ability level. It is really a case of knowing where to find it.
“@Liziophysio1 Do you follow me on twitter? Through my Twitter account I try to signpost followers to things that may be useful, including sporting events. Have a look through the list of who I follow, the sports and activities related tweeters have been listed as https://twitter.com/liziophysio1/lists/sports-and-activities/members
Websites that may be useful to start with are:
- English Federation of Disability Sport – www.efds.co.uk
- Parasport- parasport.org.uk.
- DotComUnity- www.dotcomunity.co.uk
- Wheelpower- www.wheelpower.org.uk
- Go Kids- www.go-kids-go.org.uk
- Disability Rights UK- www.disabilityrightsuk.org/doing-sport-differently
I am not saying that we are all suddenly going to turn into Paralympic/Olympic champions, or even win at sports day. But the health benefits of getting into sport, and staying physically active for life, are worth a bit of searching around for something different to try.”
I am Always Here to Lend a Helping Hand
“And if it all seems like too much – I know some of the pressures on families, especially those with additional needs – then give me a ring, 07921 813893. As part of my role as Champion For Inclusive Play I may be able to help you get started. Today I took a phonecall from a mum who has a 26 year old son with Cerebral Palsy, she wants him to spend less time sedentary in his wheelchair, can I give her some advice? Or maybe you would like your child’s support workers to do more activities with them? I look forward to hearing how you get on, and would love it if you would tweet me a picture of you enjoying your activities! @Liziophysio1”