New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics say that pediatricians “shouldn’t hesitate to promote physical activity” for children with disabilities. (Janet Jensen/Tacoma News Tribune/TNS)
New guidelines require pediatricians to encourage children with disabilities to participate in sports, recreation and other physical activities.
The American Academy of Pediatrics tells its members to encourage children with disabilities to participate in activities that align with their preferences and abilities.
In a clinical report published this month in the journal Pediatrics, the Professional Association of Pediatricians said doctors should move away from conservative approaches aimed at a child’s disability. Instead, doctors should work with families to find ways to hospitalize children.
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“We know that exercise and activity provide so many benefits, but sometimes—perhaps out of an abundance of caution—we overlook the options available to our children with medical conditions or disabilities,” says Dr. Paul S. Carbone, lead author of the clinical study. report. “As pediatricians, we can create ‘physical activity regulations’ for children with disabilities and provide practical suggestions to determine what is best for the individual child in their community. Participating in a recreational sport or activity gives children a sense of achievement and the opportunity to improve not only their physical health, but also their skills, creativity, friendships and quality of life.”
The guidance recognizes that several barriers, including functional limitations, negative self-perceptions and accessibility, may play a role.
The pediatrics group advises doctors to assess children’s abilities, talk to families about goals, and develop a prescription for physical activity. Parents should be encouraged to involve children with disabilities in recreational activities, and pediatricians can work with schools and other community organizations to promote inclusion, the clinical report said.
“Pediatricians can help families and children weigh the benefits of participating against the potential risks,” says Dr. Claire LeBlanc, author of the report. “It is no longer acceptable to play it safe or assume that children with disabilities ‘cannot’. We want all children to experience the challenges and joys of participating in some form of recreation.”