Activity and children with a disability

How do I help my child who has a disability get active?

The benefits of physical activity can be even greater for children with a disability.  It can give them a good opportunity to socialise as well as improve physical skills such as co-ordination and balance. 

Here are some ideas that should help get your child active.

  • Be patient, and encourage your child with praise for any progress
  • When doing activities with other children explain why your child may have to do things slightly differently
  • Try not to be overprotective.  If you are worried about what your child should be allowed to do check with your GP or other health professional.
  • If you would like your child to take part in an organised activity or sport, arrange to meet the leader or coach to discuss your child’s particular needs and capabilities.
  • Visit www.specialolympics.ie for details for your nearest Special Olympics group. 
  • Most local councils around the country run Local Sports Partnerships. Their role is to promote involvement in sports and they are a good source of information about sport in your local area. Some of them have Sports Disability Inclusion officers who can give you advice on activities for young people with disabilities. You can find contact details for your nearest Local Sports Partnership here.

It is easy to adapt active games and sports to suit individual needs. By making small changes to equipment, time and rules everyone can get active and enjoy taking part.

Equipment

  • choose larger or lighter bats and racquets
  • experiment with various types of balls – different size, weight, colour or texture
  • use larger goals or targets
  • try scoops for catching activities

Playing area:

  • create a ‘level playing field’, an area that is suitable to all
  • reduce the size of the playing area if necessary

Time:

  • slow down the pace of the game or activity
  • increase the time allowed to perform tasks
  • remove time limits altogether
  • include frequent rest periods

Rules: 

  • alter, reduce or simplify the rules
  • give players prompts for what comes next 

Choose your Little Steps

Rainy Days

Activity

Get a bike

Cycling is even better for your heart than walking, so get a bike and use it to get to work, pop to the shops, or enjoy the outdoors.

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Dance on a Saturday night

Turn on some tunes and let the whole family bop 'till they drop. Invest in a cheap set of disco lights and take turns at being DJ.

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Get off the couch

Be a role model for your children - if they see you being active and enjoying it they will be more likely to model your behaviour.

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Check out local leisure facilities

Check out your local community or leisure centre for winter classes and activities such as aerobics, badminton, table tennis, basketball, dancing, martial arts, cub scouts or youth clubs.

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Focus on fun

Teach your children how to play traditional games, such as hide and seek, tip the can, red rover, tag and hopscotch. You'll all have fun! Find out how to play here

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Get into gardening

If you have a garden, set aside a patch for your child and let them design and plant their own garden. Digging, weeding and watering all help build in extra activity throughout the day.

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Teach children traditional games

Playground games such as hopscotch, tag or hide and seek are all good activities. Teach your kids the rules and join in yourself. Once they know the rules they can teach their friends how to play.

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Dance it off

Hold a disco or some other activity so that the children can be active and burn up some of the calories they will be eating.

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Cut out the short cuts

Take a good look at your daily routine, and find all the opportunities you're missing to take the active option. Take the stairs rather than the escalator. If you can, walk to the shops rather than driving or at least park a bit further away and walk the rest.

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Go exploring

Buy a local map and go for family cycles or walks every weekend. Make it more interesting by choosing somewhere new to explore every time.

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Shopping

Eat before you shop

It's never a good idea to shop on an empty stomach. You're more likely to rush things, make poor choices and go for a quick sugar fix by picking up an unhealthy snack.

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Christmas

Little steps for a healthier christmas

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Check your trolley before you finish

Is it mostly filled with starchy foods, fruit and vegetables? If not restore some balance by adding some.

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Try a new fruit or vegetable every week

Variety is the name of the game with healthy eating and it's great fun trying out new foods together. The more new foods that children are introduced to the more likely they are to have a varied diet.

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Make a list

Write a shopping list before you go, then stick to it as you shop. Planning your meals for the coming week will help you put the list together.

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Stock up on tinned and frozen vegetables

All types of vegetables count towards our 5-a-day - fresh, frozen and canned. Get some for your cupboard to use when fresh supplies are low or worse for wear.

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Buy more unprocessed food than processed

Processed foods are higher in fat and salt and lower in other nutrients than food in its natural state. Go easy on the ready meals and choose chicken, turkey, pork and beef more often than processed meats such as luncheon meat, ham and bacon.

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Make food fun

Serve party food in interesting ways such as pineapple shells filled with fruit and sandwiches cut into different shapes.

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Plan your snacks

Let your children have some choice in what their snack foods are. If you agree this with them it will be easier to stick to the plan during the week.

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Keep it lean

Ask the butcher to trim off any visible fat. Small servings of lean meat deliver all the nutrients you need and you save money on the extra weight!

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Mealtimes

Try a wholemeal scone with banana for an on-the-go breakfast!

Choosing wholegrains and fruit means that you'll get the fibre you need for a healthy digestive system. It will also keep you fuller for longer and keep you going until lunchtime.

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Eat together

It's a fact that young people who eat with their families consume fewer higher calorie drinks, more fruit and vegetables, and less fat both at home and in meals away from the home.

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Boost your breakfast with fruit

If you have a bowl of cereal for breakfast, add some chopped fruit like an apple, banana or some raisins to boost your fruit intake. And do the same for the children!

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Choose processed meats like sausages and burgers less often

Processed meats are higher in fat and salt and lower in other nutrients like iron and protein than fresh lean meats are. So go for unprocessed meats like lean beef, lamb, pork, chicken and turkey more often than processed meats like burgers, sausages or chicken nuggets.

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Have a fruity dessert

Fruit is naturally sweet and makes a great dessert. Mix some seasonal fruits together or pop some apple or pear in tin foil into the oven while dinner is cooking.

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Try wholemeal or granary toast for breakfast.

Toast is a favourite for breakfast. Wholemeal, granary or brown breads are they're higher in fibre and tastier. It's best to avoid too much spread and low fat options are even better.

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Take five with fruit

Cut up a few pieces of fresh fruit and take them to work in a plastic container or freezer-bag. Pop some into your child's school-bag too as a mid-morning snack.

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Go traditional with porridge.

Porridge has been a staple for years on the island of Ireland and for good reason. It's tasty, cheap, can be cooked in 3 minutes in the microwave and is full of vitamins and minerals. Use some fruit to sweeten it up instead of sugar or honey.

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Put dairy in your lunch diary

Remember to always include yoghurt, milk or cheese in lunchboxes. They're really important for growing bones, and are a great way to boost your children's energy levels throughout the day. Dairy foods aren't just for children - make sure you're getting about three portions each day too.

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Opt for either butter or sauce - not both - on your sandwich

Adding butter, margarine or dairy spread to our bread is something we tend to do automatically. But it's worth asking yourself whether you really need the spread? If you're adding mayonnaise, relish or other sauces to a sandwich, then you probably don't. Opt for one or the other, and go for lower-fat spreads like tomato relish when available.

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Snacks

Get creative with children’s rewards

Reward your children with a comic or book instead of sweets or crisps. Other rewards could include an outing to the park or swimming pool or just some time playing with you.

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Need a milk fix? Try a milky mug

For the whole family, why not try a mug of cold or warm milk after school or other snack times. Use low fat or semi-skimmed milk for a fabulous calcium boost.

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Get a mix of nuts

Nuts provide a healthy snack for children and there are lots of varieties that children can try. There are no preparation requirements and they provide a nutritional, filling snack for all the family. (Note: whole nuts should not be given to children under 5 years of age.)

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Dip into healthy treats

Make healthy yoghurt-based dips, for example yoghurt and mango or yoghurt and mint, and serve with a variety of vegetables, carrot and cucumber slices are perfect and plain breadsticks.

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Swap sugary drinks for milk or tap water

Milk and water are healthiest. If you drink juice, choose real fruit juice not juice drinks. These have lots of added sugar and very little real fruit. Avoid tooth decay by drinking juice with meals and for young children ideally dilute one part juice to 10 parts water.

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Get a water bottle

Whether we are at school, work or play we need to drink regularly. Having a water bottle handy will help remind you and the family to drink regularly.

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Yummy scone

Wholemeal scone pieces topped lightly with spread makes a great simple snack for the whole family. Why not top with sliced banana or cheese.

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All-day breakfast

Unsweetened cereal with milk is a snack the whole family can prepare themselves and enjoy anytime. Experiment by adding fruit, like bananas or berries.

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Ditch the crisps for home-made popcorn

Popcorn is low in fat and it contains fibre for healthy digestion. Popping your own takes only a couple of minutes, and you can omit salt. What could be easier?

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Not every day

Limit unhealthy treats to a few times each week and make sure you give them after meals rather than on their own between meals. You could reduce the size to a small packet of crisps or a "fun size" chocolate bar.

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Screentime

Have screen-free bedrooms

Don't put a TV or computer in your child's bedroom. Children with screens in their rooms get less exercise, interact less with their families, have poorer diets and get less sleep.

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Plan for 2 hours screen time a day

TV viewing and computer games can be addictive, so limit your children's screen time to 2 hours a day.

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Turn it off if no-one’s watching

Don't keep the TV on in the background - if no one's watching, turn it off.

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Cut out afternoon TV

Get your children outdoors during daylight hours. Sunshine provides vitamins they need to grow healthily, and playing outside keeps them active.

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Get a TV guide

Get in the habit of planning your TV viewing. You'll find it easier to take control and monitor how much time your family is spending in front of the TV.

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Set an example

Your children will do as you do, so take stock of your own viewing habits and, if you need to, cut down on your own screen time too.

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Make meals TV free

Turn off the TV during mealtimes - better still, don't have a TV in the kitchen or dining area.

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Make TV time family time

Instead of buying a set for each member of the family - find programmes that the whole family likes to watch.

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Crowd out the TV

Think of fun things that your family will prefer to do instead of flopping on the sofa. How about a family walk after dinner instead of turning on the TV? Or cancelling the cable or satellite subscription and putting the money towards a special holiday instead?

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My Little Steps