6 Ways Gymnastics Benefits Special Needs Kids
For special kids, there's a special place to learn. The gymnastics program at Legacy All Sports, Lexington, is leading the way, says Linice Kaiser, owner.
Children with special needs face physical and cognitive hurdles as they learn to navigate the world and everything it contains. Little wonder, then, that the sport of springboards and balance beams opens a world of opportunities for kids who learn in different ways.
Gymnastics strengthens the body, of course. But a child who may struggle with learning disabilities, challenges in communicating, low self-esteem and difficulty socializing can benefit in ways that go far beyond the gym.
“After years of occupational therapy, gymnastics seemed like a natural progression,” says Kim Grasso, a parent whose son participated in the gymnastics program at Legacy All Sports, Lexington, Kentucky. “It's a fun and exciting way for our son to work his body. He loves coming each week and works hard for the instructors. It's a huge win for our family.”
What does a qualified gymnastics program offer special needs kids?
1. They learn something new
Learning gymnastics combines fun with cognitive learning. Practicing the many skills required for gymnastics allows for children to gain better control of their body and their minds. “Kids have to listen, follow instructions, take turns and interact with others,” says Linice Kaiser, owner of Legacy All Sports, selected as a Mentor Club for USA Gymnastics based on its program for special needs children.
2. They meet and master a challenging environment
A gym can be big and loud, but it also provides a safe, structured place to learn. Through small introductory classes and special quiet sessions, a child with special needs can become acclimated to the feeling and sounds of a gym. The new setting offers new ways to interact and communicate. A child can learn at his or her own pace, gradually learning to participate in more activities that allow for even more skill development and fun.
3. They build big muscles – and little ones, too
Gymnastics engages every muscle: swinging from rings, balancing on a beam, jumping on a trampoline. As children progress, the physical benefits can be striking. Over time, gross motor skills – movement of arms, legs and torso – improve, a child's agility increases, and fine motor control – movement of smaller muscles in the hands, fingers and toes – is better, too.
“A child with very little muscle tone might have difficulty just getting out of the foam pit,” says Kaiser. “Week by week, with repetition of different activities, their muscles begin to learn what to do.”
4. They're just one of the kids
The community fostered in helping children with special needs grow and take part in gymnastics is one that can bring ripple effects of good will throughout the gym. Children with special needs can learn from coaches and develop bonds with volunteers. In turn, coaches and volunteers take joy in seeing the kids learn and can foster greater compassion and acceptance for special-needs children in the gymnastics community and the community at large.
5. They learn mental toughness
A gym is a safe place to play and explore, tumble and run, jump and swing. “If at first they don't succeed, they must try, try again – just like all the other kids,” says Kaiser. “Everyone's learning, every day.” For special-needs children, gymnastics can be the gateway to development that can't so easily be delivered in a classroom or a clinical environment.
6. They feel the satisfaction of achievement
All gymnasts feel a sense of pride and accomplishment as they progress in their sport. “At Legacy All Sports, our gymnasts support one another,” says Kaiser. “We cheer on our special needs athletes as they reach their potential. And,we cheer even loader when they set new goals.”
For more information on classes, programs and activities geared to get kids moving, from preschoolers through high school, drop by the Legacy All Sports website.
Legacy All Sports offers competitive and recreational gymnastics, cheer, tumbling and dance instruction.
This article was produced for and sponsored by Legacy All Sports. It is not a product of or affiliated with WLEX-TV.
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