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Adaptive Summer Fun Ideas from Shriners Children's

lavanya with noah

Lavanya and her best friend Noah

Our recreational therapy department at Shriners Children’s Chicago is offering a variety of adaptive summer sports for patients who live in the region. We asked our team of specialists to provide some adaptive summer fun activities that parents and guardians may be able to find where they live.

All About Adaptive Sports

So what’s on the summer list in Chicago? Bike riding, adaptive golf, horseback riding, cycling and even water skiing. Children of all ages enjoy the freedom and fun of riding a bicycle of their own with friends or family, or for exercise. The Chicago Shriners hospital teamed up to offer adaptive cycling to help more kids enjoy this experience, working with the On the Road2Ride program. The program provides free equipment, guidance, and training that’s needed for participants to learn and enjoy the pleasures of cycling. Patients are given the opportunity to try different adaptive cycles at special events in order to learn which bike is the most suitable for them and their medical needs. The fleet includes an assortment of upright bikes, tandem bikes, hand cycles and recumbent trikes.

Other patients will be teeing up to golf this summer in the Chicago hospital’s adapted golf program, which runs monthly from March through October. “Our patients get to enjoy the outdoors at the Sunshine Course in Lemont, Illinois. Participating in adaptive golf improves balance, hand-eye coordination, endurance, builds strength, and can be played by anyone regardless of their abilities,” said Darlene Kelly, director of recreational therapy, child life, and volunteers at Shriners Children’s Chicago. The program even includes use of an adaptive golf cart if needed. The player sits on a special side-facing seat on the cart to swing while seated.

“I like golf because I get to spend time outside learning new skills and hanging out with everyone like Donna and Kathy (Revelation Golf instructors),” said Ruby, a patient who has learned to swing a club.

"Being in the barn is my happy place," said Noah, a patient with caudal regression syndrome, who tried many adaptive activities as a Shriners Children's Chicago patient, including the popular therapeutic horseback riding. Kelly said it goes way beyond just riding.

Highly-trained horses managed by licensed and experiences therapists, instructors and volunteers help patients participate in activities such as grooming, leading and learning riding skills. Each of the horses are specifically picked for our patients to help achieve specific functional goals. "This program started back in the 1990s. It is such a FUN way to work rehab goals with the participant,” said Kelly.

Adaptive water skiing, scuba, archery and horseback riding were all amazing and I would LOVE to do them again! Everyone was so nice. They showed me how to do the sometimes new activities and let me go!
Noah, Shriners Children's Chicago patient

Not only does Shriners Children's provide opportunities for activities on the ground, but some locations also provide fun water activities as well. One of those is adapted water skiing. "Regardless of our patients' abilities, everyone can enjoy the thrill of being out on the water. Our recreation therapists work with H20 Adaptive Sports to bring this exciting program to our more adventurous patients," Kelly said. Patients can enjoy the water with various options for adaptable equipment such as sit-skis, outriggers, and additional volunteers in the water to help set up the patient safely.

Resources Where You Live

So how can parents get their child into adaptive summer fun? Amanda Hogle, certified recreational therapist, said the process can require a little digging. “It’s a little challenging. There’s not one main resource to go to. If you have a special rec department as part of your park district, or your nearest Shriners Children’s location has recreational therapists, they can assist families to find opportunities,” Hogle said.

She also said Google can help. “Families can search for phrases such as “activities for people with disabilities” or “adaptec recreation” to find nearby options."

Whatever activity your child chooses this summer, Hogle has a friendly reminder to use and reapply sunscreen. “Always wear sunscreen or a sun shirt. Make sure to reapply especially if there are any sensory deficits for the child, as they may literally not feel the sun’s effect on their skin until later.”

adaptive golf

Luke learning adaptive golf with Revolution Golf staff member

Next Steps

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