Additional Needs & Disabilities

Physical Activity

An important way of keeping well physically and mentally is to be active. It releases ‘feel good’ hormones and improves confidence and social skills as well as helping us live longer healthier lives. Being active can improve sleep patterns and help with behaviour.

If you have a child with additional needs and / or disabilities it is just as important that they can enjoy being active. It can sometimes take extra planning and support to find the activities that suit them.

Dive Deeper

Finding The Right Activity

All children are different and finding the activity they enjoy can take time. If your child has learning and / or physical disabilities it can take a bit longer to find the right activity for them.

  • If your child has health professionals working with them ask them for ideas on what might work for your child.
  • Discuss what activities might work for your child with nursery and school too.
  • Look for local activity and sports groups – get in touch and explain your child’s needs. Ask how they will help your child join in.
  • Ask other local parents for recommendations.
  • Get other children they enjoy being with to join in and they will be able to copy what they do.

Trying Activities

If your child or young person has a physical difficulty, you could try these ideas to get you started with trying out some activities.

Try activities which encourage your child or young person to move their head or clap or shake their hands and wiggle their fingers. You can gently help them to do this, if they cannot do it by themselves and you can show them what to do by doing this yourself.

Think about the movement that your child or young person has and encourage, such as lifting their feet up and down or in and out or circle their arms. You could play some music to make it more fun.

  • You could throw ball or a bean bag onto a target together or to each other.
  • You could make safe indoor balls from rolled up paper, sticky tape or papier-mâché.
  • Balloons are a great alternative to a ball; you could pop some things inside it such as rice for sound or water for touch. Have fun but be careful the balloon does not pop!
  • Bubbles are good fun and not expensive. You could blow some bubbles for your child or young person to watch or to try to burst.

Affordable Activities

Getting your child active doesn’t have to be expensive or need special equipment.

  • Games and races like egg and spoon, sack races, catch or tag in the garden or park are good ways of children not noticing they are ‘exercising.’
  • Get together with other families for a game of football / rounders. There may be some children and grown ups who are really good and some who find it harder – split the teams fairly and let everyone have try.
  • If your child finds ‘joining in games’ hard try setting timers on your phone and see how long it takes to run to the tree or jump round the garden.

Explain games simply to your child – if your child finds understanding instructions harder you might need to repeat them a lot, use any communication aids your child finds helpful.

Family Fun

Look for activities that the whole family can enjoy. If being active is something they see you enjoying your child is more likely get in good habits too.

  • Walk whenever you can. Go a little bit further, a little bit faster, to get a little bit breathless and the heart beating a little bit faster.
  • Head to the local park for fresh air and some playtime.
  • Swimming is an activity that most people can enjoy regardless of physical ability and the whole family can join in. 

All of us are more likely to keep active if it is fun and something we enjoy. So use the things your child enjoys;

  • If they like computer games - choose active ones that get them moving.
  • If they like trains or animals - take a walk to go and see them.
  • If they like music or singing - dance around the kitchen or have family discos. 

Physical Activity Guidelines

The Chief Medical Officer recommends how much exercise children and young people should be taking. Take a look at the guidelines below.

Physical Activity Guidelines

Physical Activity - Disabled Children & Young People


Physical Activity - Birth to 5 Years


Physical Activity - 5 - 18 Years


Online Course for Parents of Children with Additional Needs

This online course is for parents with a child with additional needs. It is for parents, relatives and friends of children who may have a physical or learning disability or who may have autistic traits. This short course will help you learn about:

  • Understanding and responding to your child's feelings
  • Self-regulation & anger
  • Communication and tuning in
  • Having fun together

Sign up for FREE with access code: JON70

Find out more

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If your child attends school or an early years setting, talk to them about any concerns you may have, they can reassure you and / or help you find the right help.

Early Childhood and Family Service supports all Norfolk families with children under 5 years.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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