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Benefits of Physical Activity for Individuals with Special Needs

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After a long, gray winter, it’s fair to say many people are feeling the effects of being cooped up indoors. Luckily, Spring is right around the corner, which (hopefully) means warmer weather and a chance to be outside for some fresh air and exercise! 

Participation in physical activity is generally lower in children with special needs than those without special needs. However, it is important for children with special needs to engage in physical activity, as “studies have shown that exercise reduces repetitive behaviors, off-task behavior, mouthing, self-injury, disruptiveness and aggression.”

Further, physical activity with any individual with special needs encourages social interactions, decreases mental health related issues or depression, increases self-confidence, as well as increases independent skills and social-emotional well being. 

Physical activity can be as simple as morning stretch, playtime in the afternoon, or a midday walk around the block. Chicago offers many events to engage children and adults with special needs in movement. For a calendar of events around the city, visit: https://www.chicagoparent.com/learn/special-needs/special-needs-events-to-get-on-your-calendar/  

At Esperanza Community Services, healthy living and physical activity is important. Esperanza Therapeutic Day School and Coleridge Adult Day program instills this through:

  • Partnering with UIC Healthy Families program
  • Organized yoga classes during the Adult Day Program
  • Field Day at the end of the school year with organized sport activities
  • Walks around the community
  • Outside leisure during recess
  • Movement breaks in the classroom
  • Field trips to get participants and students moving throughout the community

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