The Importance of Inclusion in Play for Children with Cerebral Palsy

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Guest Post submitted by:
Alex Diaz-Granados
Chief Editor of Cerebral Palsy Guidance

At, we have brought together a variety of experts to provide families and individuals with cerebral palsy the resources they need. With medical experts, lawyers, and even people who live with this condition, we gather the latest information about everything that impacts children with cerebral palsy, including the important topic of inclusion. Children with disabilities tend to be excluded, but being included is so crucial to social, emotional, and physical development and well-being. Inclusive playgrounds and activities are becoming more common, which is good news for cerebral palsy families.

Children with Cerebral Palsy Need to Be Included in Play

When people think of inclusion, they tend to think of school and academics, integrating special needs children into general education classrooms, but inclusion is important in play and recreation too. Children with physical disabilities, like cerebral palsy, too often get left out. This doesn’t necessarily happen intentionally, but people make quick judgments about what they think a disabled child can do, and those are often wrong. With encouragement and some adaptive equipment, every child can get involved.

Play is important for children, and this is a concept that is well known but not limited to abled children. All children need to play because it promotes all areas of development. Both structured and free play and recreation help children learn how to socialize with peers, promote physical development, and even helps develop intellectual an emotional skills. A physical disability does not need to limit these benefits of play.

The Rise in Inclusion and Universal Design in Play and Recreation

Universal design is the idea that everything should be designed with inclusion in mind. Objects, clothing, outdoor spaces, and many other things can be designed with consideration for people of all abilities. For children with cerebral palsy, this design concept is important in how accessible playgrounds and recreational equipment is.

A playground that is designed for inclusion, for instance, may have a ramp that allows children with mobility issues to get to the top of a play structure. There may be elevated sandboxes that children in wheelchairs can reach and the surface around structures may be even, without step-ups that may act as barriers to children with mobility challenges. An inclusive playground may have walkways wide enough for wheelchairs and walkers, and swings that can be used by a child in a wheelchair, with platforms making transfer easy.

Inclusion in Structured Recreation

Children of all abilities also benefit from more structured play, such as organized sports teams. Yet those with cerebral palsy and other disabilities are often excluded from these. Accommodations and adaptive equipment can get them involved. For instance, wheelchair basketball, accessible swimming pools, and sled ice hockey, are all ways that children with disabilities and those without can play sports together and benefit from the physical and social experiences.

Inclusion in recreation, whether organized or free-form, is so important to children living with cerebral palsy. Being able to play with other children helps them to feel more confident and capable and plays a key role in being social and making friends. This is in addition to the simple basic needs that kids have to play and be active to promote healthy development. As more awareness is brought to the issue, and as advocates and parents pressure communities to do more, we will continue to see more inclusive activities, playgrounds, and other recreational opportunities for all children.

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