10 Sports for Kids with Special Needs

toddler special needs sports

If you are the parent of a special needs child, you may struggle to find activities that you are comfortable introducing your child to.

After all, even the most routine of activities can be difficult for a special needs child.

You may regularly experience meltdowns and struggles with basic things like going to the store or even going to school.

The thought of putting your child in a sporting activity may seem like a daunting, nearly impossible task.

However, sports can be one of the best things that you can do for your special needs child. Sports can give your child an outlet for extra energy, help them build friendships and develop healthy habits. 

Before you run out and enroll your child in a sports team though, it is important to remember that many special needs children can’t keep up with mainstream kids.

Many communities have sports programs specially designed with special needs children in mind.

These programs allow your child to build their skills, while at the same time working in a safe, structured environment with other kids of similar skill levels.

This can be a healthy and nurturing way to involve your special needs child in sports.

Try these programs first, if they don’t work for your child, carefully select rec programs that use coaches that are trained and skilled in working with special needs kids.

Here is a list of 10 sports that are great for kids with special needs


Kids Playing Baseball

The great thing about these types of sports is that there is an opportunity for children of all ability levels.

Not only do these kinds of sports provide your child with an opportunity to play with other kids and to learn teamwork, but they also help special needs children to build coordination.

Basic eye-hand coordination is important for healthy development for all kids.

Baseball type sports also teach special needs kids, skills like concentration and patience, both of which can benefit your special needs child in other aspects of their life, both at home and at school.


Soccer is one of those sports that many special needs kids enjoy. It has relatively simple rules and is a great outlet for energy.

Soccer teaches your special needs child to follow instructions, work with a team and from the physical perspective, it helps your special needs child build good cardiovascular endurance.

For you, the parent, soccer can be a welcome and constructive outlet for your special needs child’s extra energy.

The best part of participating in soccer is that many communities have soccer programs specially designed for special needs children that structure the sport in a manner that allows all kids to be successful and have fun at the same time.


Group Of Kids Playing Basketball

Basketball is a great activity for special needs kids, despite their physical limitations.

Basketball was one of the first sports that became mainstream for individuals with special needs.

Basketball, like soccer, has relatively simple rules, is fun, and helps special needs kids work off energy, while at the same time making friends and learning teamwork.

Basketball also requires minimal equipment, so it is great for many families that need a budget-friendly activity for their special needs child.

Track and Field

Every kid loves to run, so track and field activities are great, simple activities for your special needs child.

Track and field activities provide a diverse number of opportunities for your special needs child. Some special needs children need to have more individualized activities.

Track and field activities allow your child to play with other kids, but also have a more individualized athletic activity.

The Special Olympics organization often supports track and field programs in communities. These are great ways for your child to participate in track and field activities with kids of similar ability.

Special Olympics track programs are also a safe and healthy way for your child to participate in competitive sports if they are interested in that aspect of athletic activities.


Kids In Swimming Pool

Swimming helps your special needs child learn a lifelong, and life-saving skills. Swimming is a great athletic activity for kids of all abilities.

It also can help your special needs child be safe around water, which is important not just for special needs kids, but for all children.

Like the track, swimming can provide your special needs child with a way to participate in competitive sports, but in a more individualized manner.

Swimming is a great option for kids with mobility limitations since the buoyancy that water provides can be therapeutic for kids that may be wheel-chair bound or have other physical limitations.

Swimming can build strength and cardiovascular endurance for your special needs child.


Another sport like swimming and track. Gymnastics are a great way to build strength and coordination for your special needs child.

It also is a fun activity and one that can be structured in a manner that is more accessible for children of varying physical abilities.


Three Young Girls Cycling

This can be a great activity for your special needs child if you want to find something you can do as a family.

Cycling, whether it be road cycling, mountain biking or leisure riding, is a skill that your special needs child can enjoy for their entire life.

With recumbent, hand-pedal bikes, even wheelchair-bound kids can enjoy the experience of cycling.

Cycling builds strength and cardiovascular endurance and can be a great outlet for that extra energy.


autism and sports

A good individual sport, and perfect for kids that struggle with groups. Golf is a great activity to help your special needs child learn coordination, patience, and focus. Some say it may be the perfect sport for kids with autism.

You will need to invest in some equipment for this activity, and if you’ve got a limited budget, green fees can be costly, so golf may not be the best for every family but spending a bit of time on the range or even in the back yard can be a fun investment in your child.

More information on getting toddlers involved in golf can be found here – The Best Toddler Golf Clubs – What and Why.

If you think that golf is a good option for your special needs child, look for rec programs that are budget-friendly and open to all skill levels or just start them swinging in the back yard.


Kids Playing Tennis

Tennis is a lot like golf in the skills that it can provide to your special needs child.

Tennis is also another good option if you are looking for a budget-friendly sport for your child and family. Kids tennis gear is not very expensive and there are usually courts close by to use.

The USTA (United States Tennis Association) has programs across the country that teach tennis to kids of all ages, skill levels, and physical abilities.

Check with your local rec center for the tennis programs that they offer.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is another sport that can be both good exercise and therapeutic for the special needs child.

It is also a good option for kids with mobility limitations. Wheel-chair bound kids often find riding a horse a good way to experience walking without using their own body.

The connection between your child and an animal can also calm children with emotional and behavioral issues, making them more able to interact with family and friends without anxiety, fear or anger.


Participating in sports is a great way for your special needs child to build friendships, develop healthy habits and learn lifelong skills.

Like other children, special needs kids need an outlet for their extra energy, sports can be a perfect way for your special needs child to release that extra energy. 

As a parent, finding the right sport for your special needs child can make life in your home more calm and enjoyable. Just remember, not all sports are right for your child

As their parent, you need to find the right sport and the right program for your child.

It is important for special needs kids to find success in the activities they participate in. If a program doesn’t work, try others.

The right program, the right sport, the right coach will make a huge impact in the life of your special needs child.

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