Benefits of Gymnastics for Children with Disability

Often children living with disability are unable to fully participate in sport. This may be due to a number of reasons such as inequality of access (of services and facilities) and potentially hazardous situations. Gymnastics, however, wholeheartedly encourages inclusion.

Gymnastics is a pretty simple sport to get involved with. You find a club (click here) and turn up to classes which offer services that will benefit and work entirely for kids with disability. There are no bells and whistles, just children encouraged by coaches, exposed to a plethora of mental and physical stimuli. There is a perception that gymnastics is gruelling and only for the hyper-competitive, however gymnastics as a leisurely sport offers significant benefits.

Everyday Independence Physiotherapist Bentley Grattan, who helps children with disabilities, says confidence is one of best outcomes.

“Confidence is the biggest piece that we get from gymnastics – it increases their assurance with themselves and makes them more willing to try new activities and challenge themselves,” he said.

“It improves their ability to navigate their environment – they learn to fall safely, to move in isolation, to move on a variety of surfaces and learn to move with others. It allows kids to learn these skills in a safe environment and take them out to the real world.”

Other benefits include:

Safe physical activity, promoting flexibility, strength and coordination
An arena for social interaction
An activity which induces passion
An escape from the mundane!

A study done by Gymnastics Victoria highlighted the increase in self-esteem for children with disability who participated in gymnastics. Parents identified an increase in confidence which assisted in the willingness to partake in social interactions and increase social development. Another benefit was evident in that children were able to see success at their own pace, and small achievements were celebrated, and celebrated often. For parents, success came in the form of facilitating their children’s social activity and witnessing participation and involvement with others.

Chris Bunton, who has Down Syndrome, is a testament to this belief. The 29-year-old Special Olympic Gold medallist started at age five with low motor skills and strength – but these were no match for his passion for gymnastics.
His first international success came in the form of an apparatus gold medal from the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, and then another in Athens. Chris has also won overall gold at the 3rd Down Syndrome World Gymnastics Championships in Germany. A Sydney University Student, accredited gymnastics coach, and actor, the gymnast also founded Ruckus, a performance ensemble which celebrates disability. 

Whilst coaching for children with disability is still an area which needs more attention, actions have sparked snowball effects. There’s hope for more inclusivity, more education and more services. We hope to see children with disability partake, enjoy and love their activity in a well-informed gymnastics society.

Gymnastics NSW has partnered with therapy organisation, Everyday Independence  and Special Olympics Australia to continue our commitment to welcoming everyone to gymnastics.