Raising a child with a disability can be a daunting task for a parent. Many times, parents feel isolated, and lack a positive support system to help manage the more difficult parts of raising a child with a disability. Many parents wonder what the future of their child will look like. Will they be successful at school? Will they have friends that will accept them as they are? Will they go to college? Will they ever hold a job or have a career? Will they have the tools they need to be as independent as possible once they reach adulthood? These are fears and worries that many parents of children with disabilities carry with them. Among these fears are also feelings of loneliness. Catherine Valcourt-Pearce, points out in her blog post on Scary Mommy that many parents who have severely disabled children feel isolated and alone. Most of their support system dwindles as their child ages; leaving them to carry the burden of burring their fears or concerns for their child just to ensure their child receives the care he or she needs.
These parents who trudge along, day by day, caring for their disabled child without any other support system will eventually slink into the shadows of society. They may lose the friends they had prior to the birth of their child because those friends are unable to adapt to the new situation, or understand the needs of the parent. However, these parents don’t have to live their lives alone in the shadows. Adaptive sports offer a way out of this recurring cycle, and opens new doors for the child and parent. Here are 10 reasons you should get your child involved in adaptive sports like Power Wheelchair Soccer as soon as possible.
Adaptive sports offer friendships for your child, as well as a network of parent supports. One positive aspect of Power Wheelchair Soccer is that it is open to anyone with a disability from ages five and up. It is likely that your child will join a team with other children similar in age who they can befriend. Although we don’t all share the same disabilities, we all share similar life experiences. These friends will accept your child as he or she is, and your child will finally feel as if he or she belongs to a group who understands his or her unique daily experiences. Your child will also likely have adults on the team who can become positive role models for your child. They can be there to help your child navigate their way from childhood to adulthood as a person with a disability. They will be people your child looks up to, they will help your child see his or her full potential in life.
Aside from finding friends for your child who understand his or her unique walk through life, you as a parent will also find a group of parents who also understand your unique situation. You will immediately be immersed into a world of people who understand your struggles, fears, and uncertainties with whom you can obtain guidance, support, and understanding. You will no longer be left on the sidelines of life to raise your child in solitude. You will find friends who truly get it, and will be there for you when you need it most. It takes a village, and Power Wheelchair Soccer can be that village that understands your needs.
2) BECOMING PART OF A TEAM
Being a member of a team is a powerful thing for a child. Being a part of something bigger than themselves creates a sense of belonging. It is important for young children, especially those with disabilities, to feel as if they are a positive contribution to a group. Being a team member means they will be relied on by others to play their part in order for the team to succeed. They become something other than an individual, they become a teammate. They are equal to the rest of the team. On the Hot Shots, we win or lose as a team. No one player has any more or less significance than another on the team. By being a member of a team, your child will transform from an individual with individual goals, to a team member with team goals. Your child will learn the value of being a team member, and learn to wear his or her team colors with pride.
3) LEARNING TEAMWORK
Being a part of a team means your child will need to learn to work with the team. The concept of positive teamwork will translate into other aspects of your child’s life. Learning teamwork will teach your child how to work better with others in school, with their siblings, and with others in the community. When your child learns to work as part of a team, he or she will learn that they must sometimes give up what they want in order to better the team. It will teach your child that he or she is not the “one and only” person about whom they have to consider. They have to consider the team’s needs over their own, which teaches humility, graciousness, and understanding of other’s needs. As your child ages, the lessons learned from their team can be translated into their daily lives. This will teach them how to work better with others, and be open to new ideas.
4) COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Adaptive team sports, such as Power Wheelchair Soccer, helps your child learn communication skills. A team cannot be successful without proper communication. Many children with disabilities can be shy, or have a fear of talking with others for fear of rejection. When your child joins a team, they will be taught how to effectively communicate with others to reach their collective goal. Adaptive team sports can also help your child with understanding communication difficulties of others. Some members of your child’s team may be non-verbal, or have other ways to communicate. Being a part of this team will help your child learn multiple different communication styles that can be taken into his or her daily life at school, home, and in the community. Being a part of a team will bring out the voice in your child, and allow them a safe space to learn communicate with others who have different communication styles as themselves.
Your child will learn self discipline with whatever team sport he or she chooses. Because they are now a member of a team, they will learn that it is not always all about them. Adaptive team sports, such as Power Wheelchair Soccer, can help curb any of your child’s negative behaviors by learning from the older members how to act at practice and games. They will also learn that they will get out of the sport what they put into it. If they don’t put their energy into practicing, they will not improve. They will learn to be self-starters, and begin practicing their skills on their own as to not fall behind on the team. Your child will learn that with hard work comes great rewards; it can improve school performance, helpfulness around the home, and help him or her create goals for his or her future. This will also translate into his or her daily life as your child ages and figures out what he or she wants to do with his or her life.
Learning how to be a good sport is important for every child. This includes children with disabilities. The sooner your child learns good sportsmanship, the sooner he or she will be able to appropriately react to positive and negative things in his or her life. Let’s face it, we all want to win, but that doesn’t always happen. Learning to lose with grace and dignity will help your child to better react to negative things that will happen in his or her life. Children with disabilities often have to deal with unpleasant doctor visits, hospitalizations, or procedures. Competitive adaptive sports allow children the opportunity to learn that things don’t always go their way. Learning to deal with disappointment in a positive way will help them navigate their lives as individuals with disabilities. Their positive, older role models on the team can help them understand that disappointments in life are inevitable, and it is the way we react to those disappointments that are important. Learning to win gracefully also helps your child to understand compassion and empathy for others. By being given the opportunity to lose, your child will be able to better empathize with other teams when your child’s team wins.
Having good sportsmanship also opens doors for your child to become friends with members of other teams. There are many times when your child may compete against a friend. By befriending opponents, your child will be able to be happy for their friend’s accomplishments on the court even if it means a loss for him or her. Befriending opponents is not uncommon in many adaptive sports. By learning to appreciate the talents of their opponent friends, children are better able to show positive sportsmanship during the game. This also helps teach children that rivals on the court can have common ground off the court, and it will grow your child’s friendship circle from your town to the entire country or world.
7) LEARN TO MEET NEW PEOPLE
As previously discussed, your child may befriend multiple individuals from other teams from across the country or world. By participating in adaptive sports, your child will learn how to meet new people. He or she will learn how to meet people who are different from themselves, and how to communicate with others more effectively. This skill will translate into your child’s everyday life by allowing him or her the confidence to try to meet new people from which he or she may once have shied away. It will not only allow your child to meet new friends with disabilities, but it will help your child have the confidence to meet new able-bodied people at school or in his or her community.
As a parent, you will also learn to meet new people. You will be a part of a team, just as much as your child. The team of parents that surround you can be your support, and can become like family. You can each discuss your own struggles and needs, and you may be introduced to other support systems in your community that can help you. Parents are great advocates for their children with disabilities, but in order to advocate for your child you must be able to advocate for yourself. Your team of parents can help you to learn to take time for yourself to rejuvenate. You may engage in game nights, take time to meet up for dinner or coffee, or join a new club in your community that is solely meant for you to get away from the daily grind. You will now have a team of support who can help you arrange for care for your child as you take much needed time for yourself.
8) IMPROVE SELF-ESTEEM
By joining a competitive adaptive sports program, your child will improve his or her self-esteem. Before taking place in sports, your child may have been the only one in school with a disability. Depending on where you live, your child may be the only one in your community with a disability. While possible, it is difficult for young children to have positive self-esteem when they feel “different” from everyone else. The sooner your child gets involved in adaptive sports, the sooner they will learn that they are not alone. They will make new friends, find their voice, and learn a skill that many of their peers will never have tried or even known about. As a child with a disability, learning that you can succeed at something can be great fuel to improve self-esteem. Your child will look forward to practice, and will also look forward to telling his or her peers about their accomplishments. By learning how to overcome obstacles as a child with a disability, it will make it that much easier for your child to adapt to everyday obstacles as he or she goes through life. Knowing that you have the skills to overcome obstacles provides an immense amount of self-esteem.
9) IMPROVE CONFIDENCE
Some children with disabilities are weary of trying new things, meeting new people, and attempting to overcome new challenges. Adaptive sports can help improve your child’s confidence in themselves. It can show them than no matter how severe their disability, they can participate on a competitive team who accepts them as a valued member of the team. It can show them that they can be successful at sports just like their able-bodied peers. By opening this door to acceptance, it will improve your child’s confidence to try new things, meet new people, and reduce his or her fear of rejection. It will allow your child to find his or her voice, to feel confident that he or she can achieve any goals they may set for themselves. It will help them to transition to adulthood. It will assist them with having the confidence to possibly live on their own, go to college, have a job or career, be an advocate for people with disabilities, be a volunteer, or whatever they are called to and able to do. It will show them that with a little help and adaptation, almost anything is possible.
By improving your child’s self-esteem and confidence in themselves, this improves his or her self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is an individual’s belief in their innate ability to achieve goals. Self-efficacy allows a person to judge how well they can execute an activity or goal. Adaptive sports, such as Power Wheelchair Soccer, will improve your child’s self-efficacy. It will allow them to have the confidence to know their abilities are their limitations. It will give them a deeper sense of understanding of what they can truly accomplish with their lives. Adaptive sports help mold a child with a disability into the confident, self-aware adult you always wished for your child. Your child may not become the President of the United States, may not be CEO of a major company, may not even be capable of holding a full time job. However, these sports will help your child come to terms with their limitations, and will allow them to learn to adapt to a world that does not always include them. It will give them the strength to power through and become the person they envision for themselves, regardless of the barriers against them.
If you still have doubt about the power of adaptive sports, and how they can help mold your child to reach his or her highest potential, see all the stories below of how adaptive sports and Power Wheelchair Soccer have positively impacted children with disabilities.