Inclusion is a term used quite frequently in our society.  It means that as trainers and teachers, we will have students with disabilities in our classrooms and fitness facilities, and we must learn how to meet their unique needs in daily activities and welcome them in our schools, churches, and recreation/gyms, while striving to serve the general public as well. This is a daunting task even for those people who specialize in special education. I believe that this article is essential for anyone who works with children with disabilities. This series is divided into four categories addressing those students with physical, mental, learning and emotional/behavioral disabilities. Please read each of these sections since the person you may be working with will have a variety of disabilities and perhaps a combination of multiple diagnoses.  This month we will explore physical disabilities.

Physical Disabilities

A physically disabled person will have various ranges of coordination, mobility, balance, agility, strength, and endurance challenges. It is important to remember when working with these individuals that many of them have normal and gifted mental abilities. Some disabilities have been a part of an individual’s life since birth, others have developed over time, and still, others are the result of injuries that occurred after birth.

Arthritis and Rheumatism

Many people think that arthritis and rheumatism only occur in the elderly, but this is not always the case. Arthritis is the inflammation of the muscle joint line and pains in the body’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments are rheumatism. Individuals with arthritis and rheumatism may tire easily and activities such as walking, climbing, going flights of stairs, rising and standing may be challenging. It is recommended that physical exercise be mild yet challenging and done at the same time of day for those with these conditions. Many people with these conditions have reported improved health with exercise.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is caused by conditions that affect body movement and muscle coordination. It ranges from mild to severe. Some people with cerebral palsy are mobile and have hardly any physical characteristics whereas others cannot move at all. Cerebral palsy first appears during infancy. Some cases of cerebral palsy are caused by a blood-type incompatibility or an infection that happens before or just after birth. Cerebral palsy affects body movement and muscle coordination. Some individuals with cerebral palsy have either decreased muscle tone (hypotonic), increased muscle tone (hypertonic), or stiff and rigid muscles. Faulty development and damage to motor areas of the brain cause this disability. People with cerebral palsy have average and above average mental abilities and should be treated cognitively on that level. Physical abilities should be tested under the direction of a physical and occupational therapist. After the assessment, assisted elastic tube bodyweight training and weight machines are great to include in your strength training program. Cardiovascular training will depend on the individual’s physical stamina. Stationary cycling or swimming are excellent options for someone with cerebral palsy. Modification of equipment is also a great way to include the child in fitness activities. Use balloons, beach balls, or softballs for safe tossing and catching. Modifying the rules of games, using large scooters, or enlarging targets gives students success.

Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological or neuromechanical disorder characterized by tics of involuntary, rapid movements and repeated vocalization. This person frequently displays eye rolling, blinking, twitches, sniffing, and throat clearing. Speech disorders may include echolalia, the urge to repeat words spoken by someone else; palatial, repeating one’s own words; lexilalia, the urge to repeat read words, and coprolalia, using swear words or inappropriate words uncontrollably during speaking. Teachers and trainers can minimize embarrassment by educating the rest of the class about this condition and having activities where the individual’s strange behavior is ignored or minimized by redirection or by allowing that child an opportunity to display their behavior in a private space such as an extra classroom or gym.

Spinal Bifida

Spinal Bifida is a birth defect that happens when the vertebral canal fails to close normally around the spinal cord. Disabilities with this disorder include paralysis or lack of feeling to the legs and feet and lack of bladder and bowel control.  Programs should be conducted in conjunction with a physical or occupational therapist.   Next month we will focus on part two on visual, hearing, and speech and language impairments.

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Christina Chapan

Christina Chapan

Christina Lee Steele Chapan is a certified personal trainer with four certifications from ISSA ACE, AFAA and SCW. She specializes with fitness for children and those adults and children with special needs. In addition to attaining her certifications, she is also a certified elementary and special education school teacher with a B.S. in Elementary Education, a minor in Biblical Studies from North Central University, an endorsement in Special Education, and an M.A. in Curriculum and Development from Governors State University. Her passion is for training the future of tomorrow. She is available for training, speaking and writing.
Christina Chapan

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