Strategies for welcoming children with special needs into your BOKS class

We all know that children are not achieving their recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day.  But with close to 20% of children living with some form of physical or cognitive disability, these children are at even more risk of not achieving the amount of activity they need to maintain their health.   

I have been running BOKS at my children’s school for 3 years, and I am thrilled that this year, we have 3 children with special needs in my class. Their incredible education assistants join them in our class, and participate right alongside.  As a former elementary and special education teacher, I admit I am perhaps less intimidated about including children with special needs in my BOKS class, but I can assure you, with a few modifications, you can make your class inclusive, and help ensure that kids with special needs are able to benefit from the extra activity! 

 Here are a few strategies you may want to consider: 

  1. Ensure children with special needs are welcome in your class – one of the primary reason children with special needs don’t participate, is simple: they are systemically excluded.   
  2. Get to know the children – be sure to communicate with the teacher/education assistant/parents to learn about what those children’s needs are, and how best to work with them. Perhaps they struggle with loud noises, and you generally use a whistle to get attention.  In this case you would want to find an alternate strategy for getting the children’s attention, such as a hand in the air, or clapping pattern.  The more you learn about each child’s needs, the more likely your class is to be a success. 
  3. Check out our Adaptive Curriculum for children with mobility challenges – wheelchairs and walkers don’t need to be prohibitive – check out our adaptive curriculum, available in the Trainer Hub, on strategies for modifying our fitness skills to include children with mobility challenges.  
  4. Stay positive and enthusiastic – at the end of the day, what matters is not whether the kids can perform the perfect plank, or run in the exact right direction.  What matters is that they have the opportunity to get moving, to connect with their peers, and to have fun, and the more positive and enthusiastic you are, the more fun the kids will have, and the better they will feel about their relationship with exercise.  

Kimberley Medeiros

Director, BOKS Canada