Recreation and athletic activity are important for all children, regardless of their mental capacity. A physician's recommendation about athletic activity for mentally retarded children, as is true with other children, must take into account differences in size, coordination, degree of physical fitness, and physical health. The stage of maturation, the level of mental development, and the emotional stability of the child are all important considerations when organizing activities for children who are mentally retarded. Children with average mental development usually have multiple opportunities for athletic activities and recreation without special planning. In contrast, there is a tendency for parents and children in most communities to exclude the mentally retarded child so he completely lacks the type of exercise and personal experiences he needs. Children who are mentally retarded frequently are not physically fit, have poor coordination, and are obese. These conditions become progressively more severe as the retarded child grows older, partly as a result of limited opportunity for athletic activity. The majority of mentally retarded children can and should participate safely and productively in athletic activities when appropriate supervision is provided.
Parents of children who are mentally retarded are often confused and uncertain about what to expect from their child. Some tend to restrict their youngsters from physical activities, and others may push their children at too rapid a pace. However, most parents are anxious for guidance to help determine what is best for their child. The pediatrician is in a unique position to advise these parents because he is likely to know the family and to know the emotional and personal needs of the child and his physical capabilities.
- Copyright © 1974 by the American Academy of Pediatrics