Adaptive Sailing and Skiing for Kids with Cerebral Palsy

Developments in adaptive equipment for children and adults with cerebral palsy and other disabilities have made numerous sporting activities possible.  There are many resorts throughout the country that focus on providing a fun atmosphere for these special people so they can downhill or cross country ski, sail, canoe and even go white water rafting.

Having fun and escaping everyday life is very important for people with conditions such as cerebral palsy.  Cerebral palsy can cause a person to have daily pain caused by spasticity, trouble regulating body temperature due to an inability to move around, arthritis and back spasms.

Being active and having fun is a wonderful escape.  Sporting adventures and outdoor activities are a way for a family to be unified by spending time together doing the same fun activity.  Adaptive equipment allows children with special needs to be successful at sports, just like their family members and friends.  Instructors at these resorts are well-educated and can help people with almost any disability, including those with quadriplegia and blindness.  The resorts have the most modern equipment available and staff members are dedicated to helping each person be as independent as possible.  These resorts are quite expansive and provide outdoor activities that allow for the enjoyment of nature, with experts skilled in wildlife on staff.  Whether the family is at Challenge Mountain in Boyne City, Michigan, or the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) in Denver, Colorado, children have the opportunity to see all types of wildlife, including deer and bears.   Entertainment and arts and crafts activities are ongoing at these great resorts, which provide additional opportunities for children to make new friends and have fun.

Adaptive Activities: Sports and Nature

The mission of the NCSD is to “enhance the human spirit through therapeutic sports and recreation.”  Recreational activities not only enhance a person’s life, but research shows that sports can help children with cerebral palsy and similar conditions have improved motor function and posture, as well as self confidence.  Indeed, adaptive equipment and skilled instructors enable people with severe cerebral palsy to take part in activities such as ski jumping, sailing and white water rafting.

An example of adaptive equipment includes a monoski or sit-ski, which consists of a molded seat on a metal frame that is interfaced with a single alpine ski.  A shock absorber beneath the seat eases jumping or riding on uneven terrain, and it helps with turning.  A forearm crutch with a short ski on the bottom is used to help with stability and steering.

For sailing, hoists are often used to get people into and out of the boat.  Sailing seats are adapted from race car bucket seats to provide back support and stability, and the seats swivel, which allows people to face different directions.  Some boats even have special joysticks so that people with severe disability can operate the boat.

Programs offered at resorts such as Challenge Mountain and NCSD include the following:

Adaptive Summer Activities

  • Sailing
  • Canoeing
  • Rock climbing
  • Mountain programs
  • Horse riding
  • Camping
  • White water rafting
  • Kayaking
  • Fishing
  • Hiking and viewing wildlife

Adaptive Winter Activities

  • Alpine skiing (this includes mono and bi skiing, also called sit skiing)
  • Snowboarding
  • Hockey
  • Ski biking
  • Cross country skiing
  • Showshoeing
  • Snow tubing