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sports classes for children with special needs

(20 Posts)
ellaandmoo Wed 20-Aug-08 18:47:41

I'm wondering if you can help me? I run a successful sports coaching business for children aged two-eight year olds. As part of this we run specific classes for preschool children which is very popular.

I am really interested in setting up a class for children aged 3-5 with learning disabilities. I am a registered nurse who has previously worked with children with special needs at a Dublin school. I am also a Mum myself to 2 preschoolers.

What i would really like to know from all of you parents is whether you have taken your children to activities such as sports or dance that are just for children with learning disabilities and if so has your child enjoyed them, would you rather take your child to a group that only caters for children with learning disabilities.
If you attended a class, how did you hear about it. I'm really trying to just get an idea what would be best, we have had a little interest already which has been very positive but i'm finding it difficult to find a specific area to speak to Mums and Dads and also to advertise which i usually do at playgroups and nurserys. If anyone would like to know a more about what we do our website is We are a franchise and there are Playballs all over the country you can follow the link to find a class in your area or contact me abd i'll do my best to find you one, Thanks for your time, Emma

TotalChaos Wed 20-Aug-08 18:56:36

I've never been to this sort of class, would be very interested in taking my DS (4.5) to this sort of class, as he has language delay, and I would like the class staff to be patient with any problems with him complying with instructions etc due to his language difficulties, and would be concerned this would not always be the case at a more mainstream sports class.

ellaandmoo Wed 20-Aug-08 19:03:47

Thanks for the reply totalchaos, interestingly all the other interest i've had is also from mums of children with language delay . Although our classes teach sports skills we aim to promote the childs confidence in the child through achieving of goals. We promote listening skills and team participation.
Where abouts are you based?

TotalChaos Wed 20-Aug-08 19:08:25


ellaandmoo Wed 20-Aug-08 19:16:11

I'm pretty sure there is a relatively new Playball in Liverpool. I'm not what sort of classes they run but i can find out for you if you like?

silverfrog Wed 20-Aug-08 19:19:58

I would love a class to take dd1 to.

She used to do tumbletots, and loved it, but as she got older and the gulf between her and her classmates got bigger, she was unable to continue.

I would say that the main things i would look out for would be:

acceptance that dd1 will not understand instructions straight away

acceptance that even if she does, she may not comply.

understanding that, just because dd1 is unable to understand/talk well, her physical skills are not necessarily the same as those of children much younger than her (we had this problem at tumbletots. dd1 needed to move up the classes to keep her challenged by the climbing, but she was unable to comprehend the stricter routines of the higher classes, and did not want to sit still for 10 mintues at the beginning telling everyone her news - she saw that as wasted climbing time! grin)

I am not sure that I would prefer a class that only caters for children with LDs, as dd1 is able to, in part, access mainstream activities as long as there is awareness that she is disabled (autisitc, so not always obvious).

It is a fine balance for me. If strict (and I mean this in the loosest sense, more an idea of structure to stave off chaos) rules are in place, then dd1 can not cope (eg she may want to continue with just one activity rather than move around different skills). However, if there are no rules about changing areas/waiting for another go etc then dd1 takes full advantage of this and chaos follows.

to be honest, i would be looking for a class that dd1 could attend where she did not necessarily have to comply with any routines, as she might not be able to, but where there was an expectation tht she would try to.

So, for example, to go back to tumbletots, dd1 was fine in the toddler class, where te equipment was set up, and parents went around, supposedly in a set order, bt no one really minded if the toddlers set their own agenda (obv no barging in, and waiting as nicely as a 2 year old can for their turn etc, but could spend the whole class doing one piece of equipment if that is what was wanted).

but, when she moved up to the next class, she was supposed to move around between 3 areas in a train formation when someone else told her to. So she got 10 mins to explore a group of maybe 3-4 different challenges (climbing, balancing, swinging) then, just as she was getting into her stride, she had to move on to the next group. It would have been better for her if she could have been outside the groups, going on each set of equipment as it suited her (again, with no barging in etc, she can wait quite nicely if she puts her mind to it). the problem she had was with the social set up - dividing the class into groups who were then told what to do.

the reason I was given for her not being allowed to do this was that they were preparing the children for the next class up where parents drop off and leave the children to it, so dd1 needed to be able to listen to the leaders. I can see their point, and agree that dd1 needs to listen to the leaders, but tbh, she is not going to be able to be dropped off for a very long time. I do see that to have one rule for one child, and another for the res tof the class at 4 years old is tricky though.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Wed 20-Aug-08 19:21:55

I took ds1 to one (mainstream) sports class when he was 2. He was 'expelled' hmm (because he couldn't follow instructions).

It would have to be LD's only for us (but ds1's LD's are severe- he's 9, severely autistic and non-verbal).

He's recently been to a group climbing session. It worked well but nearly all the participants were severely autistic with severe learning disabilities, most were non-verbal.

Would love to have something set up for his level of disability, but to work it would have to be limited to severely affected. Anything of this sort with a range of abilities just doesn't work.

TotalChaos Wed 20-Aug-08 19:40:18

ella - yes I would be interested, particularly if any classes were sympathetic to language difficulties.

ellaandmoo Wed 20-Aug-08 19:49:00

Thank you so much for your replies they're really interesting.
I'm afraid one of the main difficulties with the group would be the difference of abilities although we do have this already as we children as young as 2 whos capabilities do tend to vary and in the younger class there is often running out of turn stealing of other childrens shapes or my particular fave shouting out of random things such as we had spaghetti for dinner last night or i've got a dog etc and our coaches are really easygoing(although they do break the odd sweat) but do need to maintain a reasonable level of discipline or they'd get nothing done. We use a magic line where children have a coloured shape to stand on they return to their shape when the coach asks or when they have finished a skill. We only take 8 in a class so as children don't get bored waiting for there turn to come around. The class is about 20-30 mins then a break then another 20-30 mins this is also because of the attention span. There is usually a warm up game and then 3 skills then after the 5 min break the format is the same with a different game and skills.
silverfrog, i took my dd to tumbletots but found the class too big she spent more time waiting in the que than on the apparatus. Do you think the layout of our classes would suit your dd better? She would be shown the skill and then helped to do it until she was confident doing it alone.
Jim jams i can't imagine expelling any child from a preschool class, we always give the first session free as a taster session to see if the child and parents are happy before committing.

ellaandmoo Wed 20-Aug-08 19:49:46

Total chaos i shall find out for you tomorrow and get back to you.

silverfrog Wed 20-Aug-08 20:46:16

just typed a long reply, and lost connection. buger. will try to remember what I said, apologies for shortness, just bored of having to re-type smile

dd would not understand the whole line up on a shape thing. she would not understand why she had to do it (because the coach says o not good enough for her). she would be very resistant to this, probably for a fair time.

I would expect to be able to stay with dd as her interpreter/helper, regardless of what other parents do. Dd needs this, and would not function without me, or settle to enjoy herself. I would expect to be able to stay to help long past when parents would normally do so age-wise. Small classes sounds great, but dd would not progress without 1-2-1, and I would not expect this to be provided for her by a coach (although would be lovely if it was grin)

would it be a huge problem, given dd would have 1-2-1 if dd decided to stay doing one of the skills rather than move on to another one with the rest of the class? I would try to move her on, and would have the long term goal of doing so, but I do not think it would happen for quite a while, if she took a fancy to one of the skills( and also, dd controlling whih skill she does would be one way of her feeling more comfortable when settling in). when this has happened I have tried to be as discreet as possible, but if dd is to get any enjoyment out of a class such as these then some of it has to come towards her ways - a kind of meeting in the middle while she tries to undrstand the rules.

TotalChaos Wed 20-Aug-08 21:10:09

yes I would also want to linger in the background in case of any problems.

from what you describe your setup would be OK for DS, but some children with LDs/ASD might find it difficult to cope with the discipline, or say may have difficulty recognising shapes.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Wed 20-Aug-08 21:19:37

It would be way above ds1's abilities tbh. Magic lines and shapes would be completely meaningless to him.

He can understand. Wait. So and so first then your turn. But he won't necessarily stand and wait. At the climbing/trampolining class he ran round and round the hall inbetween his turns (as did the other kids).

I don't think it's a problem if classes aren't suitable for him. I just get upset when an activity is marketed/sold as being aimed at special needs and when you get there it's apparent that it's only suitable for high functioning special needs. I prefer it to be made clear before I try it out.

I think you would need to be clear what sort of skills (especially language skills) a child would need. Things like the word 'magic' are meaningless to children until they have a quite well developed vocabulary.

DS1 does love sports halls and running around and the other day copied some (NT) kids shooting basketball hoops. He would love a sports class and I would love to find one he could attend (and from a business point of view it could be a good move- there is nothing out there for children like him and parents can be quite desperate for anything), but I don't think your planned set up would work for children with his level of needs. If you did aim for something at his level of SN parents would expect to stay and act as 1:1s.

I think the idea of a SN session is a good idea and a goer in a business sense, but I think you will need to be very clear about which groups of children you can accept/deal with.

ellaandmoo Wed 20-Aug-08 22:15:02

Again thanks for all the replies. I agree it can all be quite complex and thats why i'm glad i've had your help. I agree that because Playball is a predesigned program and we do try to meet goals and follow the programs it probably is only suitable for children with high functioning special needs. I think it would be virtually impossible to have lots of different children doing different things with out more 1:1 coaching. Parents are allowed to participate, or hang around if they want.
When i have started this class i would definitely have a look at it as its something that be worth a try.
Total Chaos, i have been speaking to one of our other managers and there is a Playball, from what i can gather the man who runs it used to work with children with learning disabilities i shall call him myself tomorrow and then post his contact details on here.

Celia2 Wed 20-Aug-08 22:41:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Celia2 Wed 20-Aug-08 22:43:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FioFio Thu 21-Aug-08 08:24:51

Message withdrawn

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Thu 21-Aug-08 09:38:12

Fio- they ran a dance group a while ago here for children with SLDs. I didn't go with ds1 (no childcare for ds2 at the time- didn't have ds3) but it was suitable for all and the kids loved it apparently.

I will try and find out more about who oragnised it, format etc.

FioFio Thu 21-Aug-08 13:45:25

Message withdrawn

Davros Thu 21-Aug-08 14:46:29

We go to a charity called Keen that runs sports sessions for children with disabilities AND their siblings. Having something active that DD can go to too, without me having to stay, is fantastic. You should be able to find them if you Google. There is also a football group near to us at Spurs but for hf children and we have always gone to SN trampoling (SN only) and swimming (SN and family members). Our local council has a section on the website all about sports for peole with disabilities.

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