Dance and Other Recreational Sports for Children with Disabilities

Over the weekend, CBS News told a story of children with various disabilities who attend ballet workshops at the New York City Ballet (1). The New York City Ballet has offered workshops for children with disabilities for the past four years. These classes are run by New York City Ballet Dancers and overseen by resident doctor, Dr. Dutkowsky. Parents of the children in attendance raved about the benefits of these ballet workshops, noting their children’s growth, increased confidence, socialization, and enjoyment of a beautiful art form.

Among the aspiring dancers at the New York City Ballet are many who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects motor function.

Cerebral palsy and dance

One 2016 study evaluated the effects of a targeted dance class (TDC) using classical ballet principles for the rehabilitation of children with CP (2). The children in the study took 12 one-hour sessions of TDC over a month-long period. The training principles of classical ballet involving postural control, trunk stabilization, focused movement control, and static and dynamic balance were all used to help the specific motor impairments of each child involved. The results of the study showed improvements in balance control and notable benefits in terms of emotional expression and social interactions.

The benefits of dance for individuals with disabilities

Creative dance can help children with disabilities develop (3):

  • Muscle strength
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Teamwork and social skills
  • Rhythm and music skills

Resources near you

Dance and other recreational activities are widely used to help children with a broad range of disabilities. The following are some recreational resources in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio that might be beneficial.

Michigan disability recreation opportunities

  • The Michigan Victory Games: This tournament provides disabled athletes with the ability to participate in competitive, organized sports. Since its formation, the Michigan Victory Games have sent several athletes to the Paralympics, World Games, and National Sports Festival.
  • Special Olympics of Michigan (SOMI): The Special Olympics of Michigan has a regional office in Troy, Michigan. To learn more about the various programs, services, and sports offered through Special Olympics of Michigan, visit their webpage.
  • Wheelin’ Team, North Branch: Provides activities and events for wheelchair users, including bowling tournaments, ice fishing, billiards, wheelchair games, hunting, archery, fishing, and golf.
  • Cannonsburg Challenged Ski Association, Ada: CCSA, a non-profit organization in Ada, Michigan, is a chapter of Disabled Sports USA that provides ski instruction for disabled participants. The program offers access to and information about adaptive ski equipment and training.
  • Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports Program: One of the most impressive and extensive adapted sports programs in Michigan. It offers a number of adapted sports, events, and lessons to patients, including archery, basketball, cycling, camping, goalball, golf, handcycling and wheelchair racing, a wheelchair sports camp, and many other programs.
  • The Ann Arbor Rockets: This is Ann Arbor’s special hockey team. Rockets hockey provides opportunities for children with physical, developmental, and cognitive disabilities to participate in an organized sport.
  • The Michigan State University Adaptive Recreation Program: This program offers a range of adaptive sports and recreational opportunities to individuals with disabilities. Activities offered include swimming and aquatics, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball, open recreation, and many more.
  • Mt. Brighton: Mt. Brighton offers many adaptive sports lessons (skiing and snowboarding) for individuals with disabilities.
  • Wheelchair Hockey League: This league, located in Pinckney, allows wheelchair users to participate in competitive hockey.
  • Belightful Yoga: A yoga studio in Metro Detroit that provides special needs yoga classes for adults and children with physical, mental, emotional, and social impairments.
  • CC Plus: A dance and exercise program in Mount Clemens, designed for children and adults with physical and/or developmental disabilities.
  • Michigan Adaptive Sports: Located in Keego Harbor, this is a local chapter of Disabled Sports USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating sports therapy, recreation, and physical opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • The Miracle League of Michigan: This is an Easter Seals of Michigan program that provides behaviorally, cognitively, and physically challenged children with the opportunity to play baseball in an organized league. They can accommodate wheelchair users and those who require walking assistance devices.
  • The Rochester Avon Recreation Authority (RARA): Provides special needs recreational programs for residents of Rochester, Michigan and surrounding areas. These include adaptive sports leagues as well as a summer camp and a variety of year-round social programs.

Pennsylvania disability recreation opportunities

  • HOPE Ability: HOPE offers a variety of day programs, camps, and classes for people with disabilities. Located in Williamsport.
  • Keystone Community Resources: An organization that provides individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities such services as autism community living, employment services, day programs, in-home respite care, health services, supported living, and others. Located in Scranton.
  • Round Lake Camp: An inclusive summer camp program for children ages 7-17 with ADHD, social communication disorders, and learning differences.
  • United Cerebral Palsy of Northeastern Pennsylvania: An affiliate of UCP that serves individuals with disabilities through adult day programs, assistive technology, home care, early intervention, play services for children, residential services, and others. Their office is located in Scranton, but they serve people in many different counties.
  • ACHIEVIA: An organization that provides early intervention services, recreational opportunities, home care, and much more. They serve Allegheny, Beaver, and Westmoreland Counties.
  • Milestone Centers, Inc.: Centers for individuals with developmental and behavioral health challenges that offer healthcare, integrative services, residential and life sharing services, employment services, day programs, and more. Located in Pittsburgh.
  • Fitness 4 Focus: A center that provides individuals with disabilities one-on-one workout instruction as well as access to fitness group sessions. They have locations in Hershey, East Petersburg, and Mechanicsburg.
  • Keystone Human Services: A resource hub for individuals with disabilities that offers such services as autism services, early intervention, Head Start, mental health services, intellectual disability services, supportive living, supported employment, adult day services, residential services, and others. Located in Harrisburg.
  • Penn Foundation: A broad range of behavioral health services including family autism services, counseling services, early intervention, residential services, yoga, intellectual disabilities services, and others. Located in Sellersville.
  • Special Performers Inc.: An organization that offers educational assemblies, grant funds for medical expenses and other needs, skills training, music and dance performance classes, and other resources for those with disabilities. Located in Riegelsville.
  • United Disability Services Foundation (UDSF): A non-profit that assists individuals with disabilities throughout central Pennsylvania with such services as home medical equipment, supports, transition, employment services, service dogs, a football league, in-home care, and others. Located in Lancaster.

Ohio disability recreation opportunities

  • Adaptive Sports Program of Ohio: A sports program that provides opportunities for individuals with a broad range of abilities to play different sports and also provides the equipment necessary for them to play. ASPO offers sled hockey and wheelchair softball in Toledo and softball in Columbus.
  • All-Star Training Club: ATC is an integrated sports program sanctioned by the Special Olympics that serves individuals with or without disabilities. Located in Akron.
  • Dancing Wheels: A dance facility that offers classes for individuals of all abilities. Located in Cleveland.
  • The KIDnections Group: A center that provides recreational programs and classes, such as art, cooking, music, and sports for children and teens with autism or a similar diagnosis. Located in North Olmsted.
  • Special Olympics Ohio: Sports training and competition in a variety of sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Headquartered in Columbus and Amherst.
  • Recreation Unlimited: A not-for-profit organization which offers camps, sports, events, education, and recreation opportunities for people with physical and developmental disabilities. Located in Ashley.
  • Adaptive Recreation of Kettering: A city run adaptive recreation program that provides classes, sports, and other activities that are fully accessible. Located in Kettering, Ohio.
  • Challenger Baseball Team: A baseball organization for children and young adults with disabilities. Located in Hamilton.
  • Miami Valley Adaptive Sports: A program that provides recreational and competitive sporting opportunities for people with physical disabilities. Located in Miami, Ohio.
  • Carr Center Special Riders Program: Provides those with severe physical disabilities the opportunity to ride horses alongside staff and volunteers. Located in Zanesville, Ohio.
  • WCBDD Aquatics Program: Allows youths and adults with disabilities to participate in swim classes at a greatly reduced price. Located in Marietta, Ohio.


  1. Ballet for special children. (n.d.). Retrieved December 26, 2018, from
  2. Egan, T., Gaebler-Spira, D. J., and Lopez-Ortiz, C. Pilot study of a targeted dance class for physical rehabilitation in children with cerebral palsy. 2016. SAGE Open Medicine. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  3. Vize, A. (2009, September 05). Lesson Plan: Creative Dance for Special Needs Children With Physical Disabilities. Retrieved December 28, 2018, from


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