Sports Options for Kids with Special Needs

From working as a team, to getting active and fostering healthy competition, there’s nothing that brings people together quite like playing sports.

For children with special needs, being part of a team can provide a unique environment to meet kids who are just like them while honing social skills and building confidence. “It’s a place that they come together with other kids where everyone is like them, and they realize, ‘I’m not alone. I’m not so different,’” says Scott Mingle, Director of Sports and Competition for Special Olympics of Indiana. “When they develop those skills and start gaining self-confidence, that’s when you see their personalities just blossom.”

Central Indiana is home to an array of sports programs geared toward children with a variety of special needs. Here are some to check out this spring:

Special Olympics of Indiana

More than 11,000 athletes across the state take part in more than 20 sports, the most popular being bowling, track and field and, of course, basketball. Kids can start at the age of 8, and there’s no upper age limit. Programs are organized by county, with more densely populated areas, like Marion County, divided into smaller subsets. For activity listings, find county-specific websites at

Baxter YMCA

7900 S. Shelby St., Indianapolis

This YMCA branch on Indianapolis’ south side has a strong adaptive sports program, including swimming lessons. Coming this spring:

WAVES Adapted Aquatics 
The Water Access for Very Exceptional Swimmers program is specifically designed for those with disabilities, highlighting each participant’s strengths and focusing on positive reinforcement.
When: April 21-June 1, 6-6:45 p.m.
Cost: $73 for members, $148 for nonmembers

Adapted Martial Arts
For children 8 and older, the class focuses on traditional martial arts skills and emphasis on discipline and traditional training.
When: Spring session starts in April, Mondays, 4:30-5 p.m.
Cost: $42 for members, $62 for nonmembers

Monon Community Center

1235 Central Park Drive E. Carmel, IN

Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation’s MCC offers a wide variety of adaptive sports options for every age level. Look for these programs this spring:

This adaptive program will teach kids 3 to 5 years old how to throw, catch and run around the bases, focusing on skill development and learning.
When: April 13-April 27, 5-5:45 p.m.
Cost: $21

Yoga for Preschoolers
Designed for children with disabilities ages 3 to 5, the class allows children to explore yoga poses and breathing techniques in a supportive and encouraging small group environment.
When: April 11-April 25, 5-5:45 p.m.
Cost: $20

Youth Yoga
Specifically designed for children with disabilities ages 6 to 12, the class teaches yoga poses and breathing techniques, as well as relaxation techniques that can be used in daily life.
When: April 11-April 25, 6-6:45 p.m.
Cost: $20

Joseph Maley Foundation

The Indianapolis-based nonprofit pairs athletes with trained volunteers to take part in sports ranging from swimming to basketball, running and cheerleading. Coming this spring:

Adaptive Swim
Athletes receive one-on-one learning with mentors. Interested families can contact Cory Hernandez at [email protected] or 317-525-4438.
When/Where: Starts April 17, 7-week season
Jewish Community Center and IU Natatorium
3 p.m. at JCC
4 p.m. at JCC
4 p.m. at Natatorium
Cost: $70

Indiana Soccer’s TOPSoccer

The program is designed to share the love of soccer with players with disabilities who are 8 and older. There are several teams locally, including the Dynamo FC TOPSoccer Academy, which meets Sundays starting April 10 from 5-6 p.m. All April dates take place at the Butler Bowl. All May dates are at Dynamo Park. Interested families can contact Tom Markey at [email protected] or 317-432-0950.

Allisonville Youth Baseball and Softball League

Behind 3575 E. 79th St., Indianapolis

The AYBS Challengers division is open to kids with disabilities who are 8 to 18 and enjoy the game of baseball. Teams of 10 or so play Saturday mornings from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the organization’s complex behind Wyandotte School at. Coaches pitch, and each player is paired with a buddy. Contact Bet or John Leemhuis at 317-796-0867 with questions.

When: Spring season starts April 23

Cost: $40


Similar Articles



From our Sponsors