It wasn’t that long ago that children with intellectual disabilities caused by conditions such as Downs Syndrome did not have opportunities to participate in gymnastics. But there has been a move throughout the country for inclusiveness of folks with disabilities in every aspect of community life. This includes taking gymnastics classes and achieving different levels.
This video shows a young woman named Chelsea performing her floor exercise at the Nadia Comaneci 2009 International Invitational. This is a great achievement for her. Folks with Downs Syndrome have low muscle tone and hyper-mobile joints. And their learning disability makes it harder to learn to coordinate their movements to music in the precise way that is needed for the floor event. But as you can see, Chelsea has mastered this.
Including children with disabilities in gymnastics has many advantages. It helps to break the prejudices and stigma often suffered by those who are seen as “different.” The children who take classes and train with those who have to fight their way through their disabilities in order to achieve what others might find easy to do will be inspired and often become the greatest cheerleaders for the accomplishments of the disabled gymnast.
The gymnast with disabilities has the opportunities for learning, achievement, fun, building physical skills, socialization, and learning that she can succeed when she works hard at her goals. If your gym does not yet include students with disabilities, speak up and encourage the management to do so. And invite parents with a disabled child to give their child the opportunity to enjoy gymnastics!