Last Updated 31 Jan 2023

The Benefits of Athletics for Special Needs Students

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Special needs students participating in athletics see many benefits. The majority of people believe that special needs students can and should participate in athletics, but there are also some people that think that it is not beneficial, and even a safety risk for them to participate. Therefore, there are many arguments supporting it and some arguments that oppose athletics for special needs students. Although some see it as a safety risk, special needs students partaking in athletics see great cognitive, social, and academic improvements.

There are many benefits of athletics for special needs students. One of the great benefits is that the students see great cognitive improvements once they have participated in athletics. “Providing careful directions and simplifying steps involved in activities can help students with cognitive limitations understand what is to be done in a particular activity” (Orlick). This quote shows that kids with lower cognitive capabilities are better able to apply the skills that they possess within athletics.

“But unfortunately, we know that students with disabilities are all too often denied the chance to participate” (Duncan). By making sure special needs students are given opportunities to participate in a variety of activities and athletic events, thus encouraging them to experience success and failures like any average kid. In reality, special needs students are just as unique as any other human being and their cognitive skills improve when participating in athletics.

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Although there are some safety concerns regarding special athletes competing in sports, there are always modifications that can enable and encourage students with the best opportunities possible to succeed and to have fun while doing it! “Just about any sport or activity can be modified to allow special needs children to get the cardiovascular, flexibility, and strength-training benefits that allow kids to stay healthy and fit” (Joseph).

In order for some athletes to compete, some sports must be modified to a form that would best fit there abilities. Children in a wheelchair, for instance, can play basketball or tennis. “Children without the use of limbs or those with mental disabilities can enjoy the therapeutic benefits of horseback riding” (Joseph). Children with those disabilities are now able to better compete and just all around benefit from these athletics. Most people see participation as a greater benefit enriching the athletes life.

Special Olympics is one of the big supporters of athletics for disabled students. “The transformative power of sports to instill confidence, improve health and inspire a sense of competition is at the core of what Special Olympics does” (Five Benefits of Physical Activity For Children With Autism). Special Olympics host many events which include a wide variety of sports. “Children learn how to play with others and develop important skills for learning. Children also learn to share, take turns and follow directions. These skills help children in family, community and school activities” (Five Benefits of Physical Activity For Children With Autism). This is one of the ways that Special Olympics hopes to enrich the lives of special athletes.

Special needs students that partake in athletics often see academic improvements both in the classroom and at home. These students are often underachieving academically but whenever they play sports they seem to grasp things from a different perspective. “Among its many benefits, participation in extracurricular athletic activities promotes socialization, the development of leadership skills” (Duncan). These leadership skills might not only benefit the athlete in the classroom but also benefit them in their daily social and family lives as well.

Once students are given the opportunity to work with other kids of similar abilities it enhances their ability to comprehend what is going on around them. These kids are introduced to all sorts of new ideas and activities when performing in athletics, hence enhancing their ability not only on the sports field but also their comprehension of what they are being taught in the classroom. “When children engage in sports programs they build social relationships with teammates, work with others to accomplish goals, and build confidence.

Sports participation also allows children to feel like they have a role in society and be part of a team, which they may not have felt before” (Autism Speaks). It really allows the athletes to have a sense of belonging and realize that they too can fit in with society in someway no matter what their disability is. There has been research done to prove that athletics can help with many different aspects of a specially challenged childs life, including their social life and their emotional and confidence levels.

Both for people with and without disabilities, social lives can play a big role in how a person sees themselves but can also greatly affect their confidence levels and how they are able to perform academically and in real world situations. Because athletics plays a big role in molding a person’s sense of self worth and sense of belonging, then enabling a belief that they can accomplish anything.

In conclusion, athletics can greatly affect a mentally or physically disabled athletes life in many ways. It can affect the way that they approach their entire life, even stretching to include how they perform in the academic field. In some cases, athletics can improve an individuals social life by inspiring them to be closer to teammates and allowing them to form closer bonds with people. Athletics also greatly improves the students ability to react to any situation that life throws at them.

“Among its many benefits, participation in extracurricular athletic activities promotes socialization, the development of leadership skills, focus, and, of course, physical fitness” (Duncan). These are many ways that athletics benefit special needs athletes. “An estimated 10 million children in the United States between the ages of three and 17 have a developmental disability and that number is rising” (Steele). Accommodating and including special needs athletes benefits everyone.

Works Cited

  1. Joseph, Thomas N. “Sports and Children with Special Needs.” Ice Packs vs. Warm Compresses For Pain - Health Encyclopedia - University of Rochester Medical Center, 2019,
  2. Duncan, Arne “We Must Provide Equal Opportunity in Sports to Students with Disabilities.” Blog, 4 Feb. 2013,
  3. “Five Benefits of Physical Activity For Children With Autism.” Be The Best Sport, 16 Sept. 2017,
  4. Steele, Darrin. “Why Make Room in Sports for Kids with Developmental Disabilities?” The Aspen Institute, 26 Feb. 2015,
  5. Orlick, Terry. “Including All Children.” Action for Healthy Kids, 2006,

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