Sports and activities for Canadian kids with disabilities

My daughter has developmental disabilities and epilepsy. She also has stellar dance moves and a passion for basketball. As more communities offer adapted and inclusive sports, our challenge won’t be finding accessible activities this fall, it will be narrowing them down.

Here are a few examples of adapted and inclusive sports and rec programs available to youth with disabilities across Canada.

Cheerleading

My daughter’s inclusive cheer team in Mississauga, Ont., is made up of boys and girls ages 10-24 with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. Her team was the first adapted cheer team to represent Canada at the World Cheer Competition in 2019. How exciting is that? This dynamic sport combines dance, gymnastics, and tumbling. It’s adapted, highly athletic, and lots of fun. 

Contact your local cheer gym to ask if they have a Cheer Abilities team (or to encourage them to start one). Or contact Cheer Canada and inquire by email at [email protected].

Dance

Many studios provide peer partners to help support dancers with disabilities. This is a fun way for youth to be social as well as active. Some studios might require the dancer to bring a caregiver to assist if necessary. Here are a few options across Canada:

Halifax Dance: Inclusive Movement 

Ontario’s Get Low Dance Co: Virtual and mobile dance classes. 

Dance Ability Movement classes are in collaboration with a host studio in order to create accessible and inclusive opportunities within the existing dance studio environment.

Or you can contact dance centres in your area to find out if they run adapted classes. If they don’t, ask why not. 

Martial arts

Judo, taekwondo, and karate help develop balance, coordination, and concentration, and build strength, body awareness, and confidence. Plus, martial arts can have a big impact on kids with autism. Here’s how

Grandmaster Tae E. Lee has been offering free taekwondo classes to youth with disabilities at his Ottawa taekwondo school since he pioneered the first taekwondo program in Canada for children with disabilities over 40 years ago. 

Swimming

Swimming is not only enjoyable and great exercise, it’s an essential life skill for safety. Many community centres, public pools, and private aquatic centres have swim classes designated for swimmers with disabilities such as, for example, the SWIMABILITIES program in western Canada. Some pools even have warmer water temperatures for added comfort. 

Sportball

With locations across Canada, Sportball’s adapted programs provide an array of skill-building opportunities for youth with disabilities. Sportball aims to enhance attention, as well as listening, physical, and social skills, and improve confidence. Sports like soccer, tennis, skiing, hockey, and many more can be adapted for all to enjoy. 

Need help finding an activity?

Jooay is a free app that helps children with disabilities and their families locate accessible leisure opportunities in their area. Read more about it here!  

Talk to your child about what they are interested in, then sign up soon before fall classes and team rosters fill up.

Plus, organizations like KidSport Canada and Jumpstart may provide grants or funding to help make sports financially accessible to everyone. 


Read more about activities for kids with disabilities:

Equine therapy: Not just horsing around

Active and accessible summer fun for kids with disabilities

How to support your child with special needs to develop physical literacy

5 group games kids in wheelchairs can play

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