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Motivating Children with Developmental Disabilities: Physical Activities

Have you had trouble finding different ways to keep your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Autism) or other behavioral and mental disorders active in physical activity?  With COVID keeping so many people home more, parents and adults often need new ideas for getting their children engaged in physical activity but in a way that they are motivated to want to participate.


  • You know what interests your child. Include something your child is interested in when creating a small game or activity to play or do.
    • Example: If your child likes puzzles or the color purple, put a puzzle or a purple object in different areas of the apartment or house and have your child go finish the easy puzzle or collect purple objects as quickly as possible. Play music too if you want.
  • Use music, videos, and cartoons as a part of physical activity.
    • I used to like Bugs Bunny a lot or Scooby Doo. Find pictures of Scooby Doo or Bugs Bunny and hide them in different places for your child to go collect and bring back to you as quickly as possible.  You also could hold up different pictures and when your child sees a picture of Scooby Doo or Bugs Bunny, your child gets to jump up and down 10 times.  You can create more like this easily.
  • Let your child choose favorite music to play while doing an exercise routine.
  • Your child can even play actively with the dog in the house or in the yard.

Here is a challenge for you to consider for new activities for your child to be active and work on balance at the same time.  Put a rope on the floor in a straight line.  Now list as many ways as you can for your child to use the rope to practice balancing and moving in different ways with the rope. For example, have your child balance on the rope with two feet. Walk backwards across the rope slowly.  ………… Keep changing the ways to move on or around the rope as well as changing the shape of the rope.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”  (Proverbs 11:2)

I will provide more examples in my next BLOG. Hoping to for your child to do inside exercises that are fun too.

Brett Everhart

Brett is a university professor and department chairperson in Physical Education in Pennsylvania, USA. One of his responsibilities is to prepare university students to become better teachers and to know how to teach children with disabilities movement skills, physical activity and sport so that they can be successful and active.
One thing Brett is currently working on now is trying to begin communicating with leaders in two different organizations who work with children with disabilities. One place is for children with developmental disabilities from very poor backgrounds in the mountains of West Virginia. The other place is in the state of New York that works with children and adults who have disabilities but who are also refugees from the Middle East. Brett aims to provide experiences for his university students to teach refugee children with disabilities. When the world opens up again for safe travel, Brett aims to bring them to Lebanon to volunteer to work with children at SKILD as well as to create a small camp for children with special needs to participate successfully in physical activity, movement experiences and sport.

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