I’m Jen and I’m the founder of Butterflies Clubs. We provide clubs and activities across Essex for children with disabilities.
Something that had come to our attention within the sessions is the aversion so many of the children had to physical activity or exercise. When we looked deeper into this it was something that was a concern for many of the parents and they felt their children didn’t get enough exercise and they felt their children have very negative attitudes towards exercise and physical activity.
When we spoke to the Children and Young People some told us they ‘hated’ exercise and sports and when we reflected on this and the reasons behind this they gave us examples of why exercise and sports made them feel bad about themselves and gave us examples of times they have felt rejected by peers, embarrassed when participating and how they have had a meltdown when they hadn’t won a task and are now not allowed to participate in events. We had a brainstorm with the children on how we can overcome these problems and they came up with a number of points for us to stick to for them to even attempt to participate in physical activities. These points included;
* No winners/losers
* No laughing at each other
* Not being in competition with each other
* Working together
* Make it interesting
Using these points we introduced a 20 minute segment into our usual club sessions once a month, we put together a challenge for the groups which included the groups interests eg we had a superhero training camp! In the training camp the superhero’s were set a challenge to collectively complete 20 circuits of the training camp, so we used stepping stones to practise jumping building to building, we jumped in and out of cones to practise dodging explosions and various other obstacles that we gave a superhero theme. The children who initially avoided physical tasks the most became fully involved and the children cheered each other on and high fived each other on each circuit they completed. These children have asked since what challenge they have set for the club session.
This change in attitude towards physical activities has been amazing and we feel using this approach we can improve the mental well being and health of children with disabilities in Essex.
We hope to open Butterflies Action Team sessions to be able to run the sessions to specifically focuss on physical challenges and team work to raise the confidence and self-worth of children with disabilities by focussing on the abilities and celebrating their achievement.