Recreation for All: Inclusive and Adaptive Recreation

YMCA Fox Cities inclusive and adaptive recreation

Have you ever been picked last for the team? Or felt like there wasn’t a place for you? For thousands of Fox Valley residents this is an everyday occurrence. While you might think nothing of going to the local pool or signing up for soccer league, these options are not always available to all residents. Residents with disabilities, children and adults, who have physical or cognitive limitations, face barriers to recreation services every day. 

Through the Americans with Disabilities Act, the government has declared that recreation is not just for the privileged few, but rather the right of all citizens. Despite the ADA being passed nearly 30 years ago, major barriers to recreation for people with diverse abilities still exist. While people in larger communities may have more opportunities, even those are limited to Special Olympics and school services. Special Olympics was created for those with cognitive disabilities and school services end at age 21. What if you don’t fit those categories, or the options provided aren’t your passion?

Cue inclusive and adaptive recreation.

Inclusive recreation is knocking down barriers and creating opportunities for everyone to participate in the same experience. An example of this is including a child with a disability on the basketball team. This inclusion is accomplished by training staff on how to best interact with and instruct a child with diverse needs. An additional inclusion specific staff might be a part of the process to help the child receiving services to work with the other kids on the team, teaching them the value of teamwork make the team stronger.

Adapted recreation, on the other hand, is a disability-specific team or activity. Examples of this include Special Olympics and Miracle League. These teams are built to accommodate a group of individuals of similar ability level to play with similar peers. Rules of the game, or the way in which the physical game is played may be changed. For instance, the court might be smaller or everyone may get a turn to bat and run around the bases and the idea of strikes and outs is eliminated.

Both inclusive and adaptive recreation are important for involving people with diverse abilities, but finding programs to fit an individual’s needs can sometimes be difficult. The YMCA of the Fox Cities offers opportunities that are either inclusive, adaptive, or both. This is not only limited to sports options either. Sure, there are programs for swimming and sports, but also programs like arts, and camps that are open to all participants. Inclusion services are offered to requesting participants when registering for a program. An intake meeting may be completed to assess an individual’s need for support services. Adaptive programs at the Y are included under our new SNAP program headline. These programs include Saturday Fun Club and Pump It Up, just to name a few. Programming is designed with the diverse needs of our participants in mind. Find more programs here.

Many people are not aware of the vast amount of programs available to all people with diverse abilities. As with anything in life, you just need to find what you are passionate about and you are sure to find a place where you will fit in, learn and grow.

Devin Minor serves as the Workplace Wellness Assistant at the YMCA of the Fox Cities through a partnership with AmeriCorps United Way Fox Cities. The Y’s Workplace Wellness Program helps companies create a health-focused culture that promotes productive employees, less stress, fewer missed workdays and a smaller number of medical claims. If you would like more information, contact Devin at

MORE INFORMATION: The Easter Seals Wisconsin Disability HelpLine of Outagamie County shared a resource list of recreation opportunities for youth and young adults with special needs in the Fox Valley Region here.

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