Sports Programs for Kids With Disabilities

Organizations for Inclusive Sports

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Every child has the right to enjoy the fun of playing sports. Whether part of a team sport or enjoying an athletic activity geared for individuals, kids benefit from active pursuits. Many programs have been developed to get disabled children in the game. Find one that's right for your child.

Multi-Sport Programs

These programs provide structure and support for a variety of athletic activities. A benefit of connecting with these programs is that your child will be able to choose from among different sports.

Paralympics

Paralympics provides competition for athletes with physical disabilities. The organization oversees 28 different sports activities, including team sports such as wheelchair basketball and individual sports such as archery.

Special Olympics

Special Olympics offers opportunities in a variety of sports for people with intellectual disabilities. It offers over 30 Olympic-style individual and team sports. Special Olympics is a worldwide organization and is highly recognized.

Unified Sports

The Unified Sports program brings athletes with and without disabilities together. It is part of the Special Olympics. Programs include a Rivalry Series where well-known college sports rivals face off with teams made up of university students and local Special Olympics athletes. 

Studies show all kids benefit from participation in athletics. Additionally, research has found that while there are often significant barriers to participation in sports for disabled children, there are many ways to overcome these obstacles—and that the perception of challenges is one of the biggest barriers.

Baseball

The Little League Challenger Division and the Miracle League allow children with physical and mental disabilities to play baseball in a supportive, non-competitive environment.

Little League Challenger Division

Teams in the Little League Challenger Division are set up according to abilities rather than age. The formats include tee-ball, coach pitch, and player pitch games. Scorekeeping is discouraged. The players also wear the same uniforms as other Little League players.

Miracle League

The Miracle League was founded in 1998 with attention to the playing surface, ensuring it is free from safety hazards for players who use wheelchairs or walkers. Every player is a winner, and everyone scores a run each inning.

Soccer

American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) and US Youth Soccer offer programs designed to get children with physical and mental disabilities on the soccer field.

AYSO VIP Program

The AYSO's Very Important Player program gives everyone a chance to play. It uses buddies to assist the players as needed.

US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer

The US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer program helps communities establish programs to place young, disabled athletes on teams.

Hockey

American Special Hockey Association provides an adaptive ice-hockey experience for people with physical and developmental disabilities, while Special Hockey International offers hockey for those with developmental disabilities.

American Special Hockey Association

The American Special Hockey Association program gives people with physical and developmental disabilities the chance to play ice hockey in an environment adapted for their disabilities.

Special Hockey International

The Special Hockey International program focuses on people diagnosed as having developmental disabilities. Teams are formed by ability rather than age. There are dozens of clubs throughout North America and Europe. They play to develop individual skills without standings or championships. But they have a yearly SHI tournament for fun and camaraderie.

A Word From Verywell

All kids can be athletes and benefit from participating in sports. For children with disabilities, the key is finding the right program that fits their interests and accommodates their disability. Luckily, there are many sports offerings to accommodate a variety of minds and bodies.

If you don't find one that syncs up with your child's goals and needs, then consider contacting local sports programs to see if they have ideas—or consider starting one yourself.

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2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Parenting an athlete.

  2. Shields N, Synnot A. Perceived barriers and facilitators to participation in physical activity for children with disability: A qualitative studyBMC Pediatr. 2016;16:9. doi:10.1186/s12887-016-0544-7