It can be difficult for some children with Down syndrome to run around and play because they often face secondary health issues such as heart and musculoskeletal issues. However, this just means they need accommodations that adapt the environment to their needs. It’s not a question of “if” these kids can exercise, but more a question of what works best for them. To help, here are some ways to encourage exercise in children with Down syndrome.
Obstacles Kids With DS Face
In order to encourage kids with Down syndrome to exercise, we’ll need to first address the obstacles that children with Down syndrome face so we can meet their needs. While kids with Down syndrome may not be able to exercise the same as everyone else, it’s always important to remember that that doesn’t mean the way they do exercise is “bad” or “wrong.”
- Physical Limitations: Many kids with Down syndrome struggle with issues that affect their spine, hands, feet, or hips, which makes some basic motor functions a challenge and could potentially prevent them from participating in some activities.
- Heart Problems: Even more common for children with Down syndrome are heart problems. Because their bodies do produce the red blood cells needed, they may not have much stamina.
- Lack of Confidence: Because of these physical obstacles, kids with Down syndrome may hesitate to participate in healthy activities because they fear they can’t keep up with other kids.
- Lack of Opportunity: This is what we aim to overcome. If there are no good options or opportunities that meet your child’s needs, we must find alternatives.
Exercises for Kids With DS
First and foremost, you’ll want to give your child an environment that encourages them to manipulate the world around them and encourages them to improve their motor skills. For example, many commercial playground sets come with a variety of equipment, such as slides and swings, that allow your child to play on and manipulate at their own pace. Participating alongside your child is also an important way to encourage exercise in children with Down syndrome because they’ll feel less ostracized for their different needs.
Benefits Kids With DS Gain
By committing to getting exercise, the very obstacles your child faces will fall away as they improve themselves and their fine motor skills. Improved muscle strength can make daily tasks that may have been difficult for your child beforehand much easier. Cardiac activity will also improve the blood flow and strengthen the heart, which is a major boon considering the fact that heart problems are fairly common in individuals with Down syndrome. Exercise will give your child the energy and confidence they need to tackle their day.