Akron Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tip: Boost Kids’ Academics With Exercise
Children of all abilities all over the globe aren’t getting enough exercise. The problem is even greater for children with special needs, who by some research estimates get just 17 minutes of physical activity in school – a day. As Akron pediatric occupational therapy professionals, this is problematic not only from a position of physical health but also of cognitive development and academic success.
Brain Benefits of Physical Activity
It’s our goal during sessions to get kids moving as much as we can, but parents who want to see their children thrive cannot overlook this component. One study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports & Exercise found that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is directly associated with better reading fluency and arithmetic skills.
As reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.”
Studies on how exercise impacts brain development have shown that exercise helps to:
- Increase oxygen flow to the brain;
- Increases brain neurotransmitters;
- Increases neurotrophins, which assure the survival of neurons in areas of the brain responsible for learning, higher thinking and memory.
All of this is going to help kids do better when it comes to academics – particularly if the activity is consistent and/or can be done right before testing. This may be something you’ll want to discuss with your child’s teacher or during the next IEP meeting.
Local Resources to Help Your Child Get Moving
The problem we’ve seen in the pediatric occupational therapy field is that parents have concerns that there aren’t enough sports leagues, gyms, summer camps and other programs that can support both inclusion and safety for their children. It may be even tougher in cooler weather.
In our Akron pediatric occupational therapy sessions, we try to incorporate physical movement with our patients as much as possible where it aligns with therapy goals.
But parents can help facilitate other outside activities too through a number of local organizations in Northeast Ohio. Some of those include:
- Adaptive Sports Program of Ohio. This is a sports program that provides opportunities for individuals with a wide range of abilities to play numerous sports. For example there is rugby/kayaking in Akron, sled hockey in Wooster and Canton and basketball, wheelchair soccer, softball and track in Youngstown.
- All Star Training Club. This Akron program, sanctioned by the Special Olympics, offers integrated sports for people with and without disabilities. Spring 2020 programs include soccer, track & field, gymnastics, bocce and more. Leagues start March 28, and it’s not too late to sign up.
- Dancing Wheels. This Cleveland program offers dance classes for people of all abilities.
- Guiding Stars Adaptive Ice Skating. This ice skating program for kids of all abilities has a Northeast Ohio chapter located in Aurora.
- Gym World. Broadview Heights gymnastics gym with classes specifically designed for children with special needs. Classes are available in both group settings and one-on-one with an instructor.
- Miracle League of Northeast Ohio. This is a baseball program that is open to children with both mental and physical disabilities or delays.
- Sky Zone sensory hours. Many locations of Sky Zone now offer gymnastics, jumping and moving opportunities for kids with special needs. Call your local Sky Zone to learn more.
- Therapy and Wellness Connection. We offer much more than just therapy! We have an inclusive summer camp, a functional fitness class taught by one of our Brecksville occupational therapists and more.
Our Akron pediatric therapy team believes physical activity should be a part of everyone’s day, given the enormous academic, physical and social benefits. If you have questions about how to get your child moving on a more regular basis, ask one of our therapists at Therapy and Wellness Connection.
Physical Activity and Sedentary Time among Children with Disabilities at School, September 2016, Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
More Blog Entries:
How Occupational Therapy Can Help Treat Children With Sleep Problems, Feb. 15, 2020, Akron Pediatric Occupational Therapy Blog