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An inclusive active environment is one that provides the opportunity for active kids of all abilities and interests to participate in a variety of activities.

This inclusive environment recognizes the value of each active kid, the opportunities to take risks and make errors, the inherent need to be independent and self-determined and the opportunity to make active choices.

An active kid with a disability benefits from quality active experiences as much as any other active kids. Active kids without a disability can learn about the abilities of friends and family members and gain an appreciation that individual differences exist and that participating in an activity in a different way does not lessen its value.

Active kids without a disability can role model, observe, take part in discussions and volunteer and build friendships with other active kids with disabilities while gaining valuable enriching experiences.

The Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability is an excellent online resource on how to adapt activities and equipment for physically challenged kids—http://www.ala.ca. There are nine components to the resource package, each aimed at a particular disability. Here are a few ideas from the resource to create that inclusive active environment.

Parents should always try to include their child with a disability as much as possible in family activities. That child’s level of participation may differ.

Full Participation—no modifications to the activity; e.g., a child with an amputation walks/runs along with family members.

Modified Active—modifications made to the equipment, rules, distances or challenges of the specific skill; e.g., reduce the size of the playing field to include a child with cerebral palsy in a soccer, football or Frisbee game.

Active Parallel—family members participate in an activity at their own skill level; e.g., a child with multiple disabilities can be fitted with a floating belt for walking/running in water while other family members swim.

Passive—the active child assumes an assistive or supportive role; e.g., active kid in a power wheelchair records the finish times of all family members when they go out for a run.

Informed Observer—the active kid attends the family outing as an observer to gain knowledge about the activity; e.g., a child who is blind receives a play-by-play conversation from a family member about the activity they are engaged in.


Minimal Modifications—slight effect on other family participants or the type of activity; e.g., family members wear brightly colored pinnies to aid with a visual impairment. Use a start flag to signal to a deaf child that a walk/run is beginning.

Moderate Modifications—affects the role your active child takes within the activity; e.g., during a soccer game a child who uses crutches could take all the throw-ins when the ball goes out of bounds. A child in a wheelchair covers a specific area in a basketball game, or a tandem bicycle is provided for a child with a visual impairment.

Considerable Modification—may affect the integrity of the activity and the experience received by the active child with a disability. Choose another activity!


Communication may be by sign language and/or gesturing for children who are deaf or unable to speak. If a child is just beginning to speak, use of gestures with sounds that approximate the words may be used.

Keep instructions clear and concise; e.g., head up, shoulders forward, heels, then toes. Allow time for the child to respond, be patient—use gestures and sound for understanding. Encourage the child to speak slowly and repeat if necessary. Establish routines and be consistent; e.g., same route around the neighborhood.

Mobility. Practice movement skills such as walking or running, with use of assistive devices such as a walker, crutches or wheelchair.

Shorten the distance to be traveled; e.g., modified walk/run route in neighborhood. While family members are practicing running form, mobility skills of the disabled child can be practiced along side. Consider the wheelchair or walker as an extension of the child's own body. A family member may assist with the movement of the wheelchair similar to moms and dads with baby joggers. A child who is not mobile can take a stationary role such as a timer, cheerleader or recorder.


Introduce children in wheelchairs to different levels. Allow them to play both in and out of the chair:

· for low levels—pull, creep or roll on the ground

· for higher levels—give the child a scarf or ribbon to extend their reach

· work together with the child—they move at high levels and you move at lower levels on the ground

Using different pathways:

· move in straight pathways—going forwards and backwards

· use large, open spaces to practice; as skills improve, decrease the space

· practice stopping and starting

· alternating hands while wheeling

· add pylons or other objects to wheel around

· change pathways—straight, zigzag, circle, curves, like a snake movement, animal movement

For walk/run activities, be sure the wheelchair is in excellent repair with tires fully inflated. As your active kid is moving, observe the head position, arm action, position of hands on the wheels, follow through, stroke frequency and stroke length. For middle distance and distance running activities, be sure the course is level and as smooth as possible. Try an artificial running track.


An child may be missing a limb as a result of an illness, accident or perhaps from birth. Parents will understand that their child may need to make adjustments to compensate for their body's changed center of gravity. The use of prostheses or braces can assist with the function of a weakened or malformed extremity; e.g., recreational arm, super sport hand, or flex foot.

The following modifications can be considered during walk/run events:

· walk or run on a smooth surface such as an artificial track

· walk or run shorter distances

· use several family members, friends or neighbors for relay-type activities

· increase the number of relay team mates—instead of four, have six or eight

· try a hop-skip walk/run or crutch running without prosthesis


Some kids with CP may be unable to master basic movement skills at the same rate as children without disabilities of their age. Many repetitions may be necessary.

Improved fitness may assist active kids to compensate for reduced muscle function, enabling them to better meet the challenges of daily living. Parents should be aware that during walking or running, the child expends more energy and as a result does not need to walk or run as far to gain benefits and may require periodic rest breaks. Alternate one minute of activity with one minute of rest.

Warm-ups are important for children with spastic CP. Spastic muscles are usually flexed—fingers and wrists, heel cords, back of thighs and front of upper arm. For muscle strength, stretch tight muscles such as biceps and triceps. It is important for CP kids to pace themselves during activities to avoid a decrease in efficiency of basic locomotor movements.

Active kids who use wheelchairs should be encouraged to improve wheeling skills. CP kids may be able to walk, gallop and slide but may be challenged with running, jumping, hopping or skipping. To maximize the child's mobility, try using a wheelchair or walker. Use of floatation device (water belt) may assist to increase independent movement in water.


Active kids with a visual impairment have the capacity to become physically active with assistance. With practice and teaching, basic movement skills may be developed to the same level as that of sighted kids. Parents may consider the following for inclusion of kids with a visual impairment.

· use of sound cues—tambourines, clickers to designate who is "it" in a tag game

· body contact—hand games, hands on waist, back to back position, can help with walk/run movements

· define a specific area to move in

· a walk/run guide can be used effectively. The tether method using a nonelastic rope about 50 cm in length keeps guide and runner synchronized. The two runner’s strides should match—the guide’s
right leg strides with the runner’s left leg and vice versa. The guide should not pull or push the runner in any manner. Another method is referred to as a “no strings” method whereby the guide touches and/or speaks to the runner with a visual impairment. The runner may speak to the guide as well. The guide should start and stay a synchronized step behind the runner, using a gentle touch to indicate direction. If the guide is on the left side, the right hand is placed near the left armpit of the runner between the left arm and the ribs to turn left, the guide gently pulls the runner’s inside left arm. right, the guide gently pushed on the left hip. If there is an obstacle that may be unsafe then the guide
may grasp the runner’s arm. With guidance, this method will maximize independence and result in a normal running gait. Guided running requires lots of practice.

A reminder to parents trying to maximize opportunities for active kids with disabilities is to only modify activities when necessary, to the extent necessary, without changing the integrity of the activity.

Active Kids: Learn to Walk—Scope and Sequence Sample Plan Walking for the health related fitness benefits is a convenient, inexpensive, lifelong, healthy activity that is inclusive and one that millions of people do worldwide. Here is a sample learn to walk plan that parents may consider for their family and/or friends and neighbors.

To receive the maximum benefits of this sample plan, families should consider going out at least three times a week to receive maximum benefits of the information shared. Sample topics include walking form, responsibility for personal fitness, understanding the benefits of walking as an aerobic activity, knowledge to determine target heart rate zone, a variety of walking activities, social benefits or group walks, basic understanding of nutrition, equipment necessary for fitness walking, and any others you choose to include.


Day 1 Benefits of walking (3?5 minutes)
Go for a walk—Route #1

Day 2 Safe walking routes (3?5 minutes)
Go for a walk—Route #1 in reverse

Day 3 Walking form (3?5 minutes)
Go for a walk—Route #2

Day 4 Equipment for walking (clothing, footwear for various weather conditions)
Go for a walk—Route #2 in reverse

Day 5 Basic understanding of nutrition and active lifestyle
Go for a walk—Route #3

Day 6 Target heart rate zone
Go or a walk—Route #3 in reverse

Day 7 Topic of active kid?s choice
Go for a walk—Route #1

Day 8 Variety of walking activity types; e.g., speed walking, fitness walking, race walking
Go for a walk—Route #1 in reverse

Day 9 Body composition
Go for a walk—Route #2

Day 10 Group walks?anything from partners to more
Go for a walk—Route #2 in reverse

Day 11 Walking up and down hills
Go for walk—Route #3

Day 12 Activity choicepartner relays—catch your partner; conga line walk, any other walking activity ideas

"Go for a walk" distances and times may vary according to needs. Choose interesting and safe routes.


Teacher Aaron Trimble, of Victoria School of Fine Arts in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, has organized a learn-to-run program for students in the school. It is similar to the Running Room program, and it has 10 weeks of information sharing and guest speakers, culminating with a group fun run. There will be about 200 runners participating in this event. What a wonderful idea and great strategy to improve the health and well being of school age kids!

Let's hear from you. Contact me with your questions and suggestionsfor upcoming articles.

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