Pediatricians should encourage children with disabilities to participate in sports, recreation and other physical activities, according to new guidance.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is telling its members to push kids with disabilities to take part in activities that align with their likes and abilities.

In a clinical report published in the journal Pediatrics this month, the professional association of pediatricians said that physicians should move away from conservative approaches that focused on a child’s disability. Instead, doctors ought to work with families to find ways for children to be included.

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“We know that movement and activity offer so many benefits, but sometimes — perhaps out of an overabundance of caution — we overlook options available for our children with medical conditions or disabilities,” said Dr. Paul S. Carbone, lead author of the clinical report. “As pediatricians, we can create ‘physical activity prescriptions’ for children with disabilities and offer practical suggestions on identifying what would be the best fit for the individual child within their community. Taking part in a recreational sport or activity gives children a sense of achievement and chance to improve not only physical health, but skill levels, creativity, friendships and quality of life.”

The guidance acknowledges that several barriers including functional limitations, negative self-perceptions and accessibility can play a role.

The pediatrics group advises physicians to assess children’s capabilities, talk with families about goals and develop a prescription for physical activity. Parents should be encouraged to include kids with disabilities in recreational activities and pediatricians can work with schools and other community organizations to promote inclusion, the clinical report says.

“Pediatricians can help families and children balance the benefits of participation with the potential risks,” said Dr. Claire LeBlanc, an author of the report. “It’s no longer acceptable to play it safe or assume children with disabilities ‘can’t do that.’ We want all children to experience the challenges and joys of participating in some form of recreation.”

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