Planning activities for people with disabilities

How to plan activities that support engagement and meet outcomes

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To help people with complex disabilities gain the benefits of taking part in sport
and physical activity, we need to ensure that the activities we deliver are presented in a way which meets their needs. Use the below prompts to ensure your activity supports people to:

  • take part in a way which is engaging and meaningful.
  • work towards their desired outcomes.

Top tip

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Before planning activities, it’s important to speak to participants and their support networks, to understand how they like to interact with activities, and what they want to achieve by taking part.

You can collect all the information you need to know about the participants, using Sense’s handy Participant Profile.

Engagement methods

Participants will engage in activities using at least one of these senses:

  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Touch

Each individual will engage differently, depending on their level of sight and
hearing, and personal preferences. Here are some suggestions of how you might adapt your planning to ensure your delivery is appropriate for each participant’s
preferred engagement methods.

Preferred engagement method: Sight

How to encourage engagement: Vary your use of colours, lights, shapes, and movements

Example: Waving colourful ribbons to encourage the participant to reach out in different directions

Preferred engagement method: Sound

How to encourage engagement: Use a variety of different sounds, music, and verbal communication

Example: Playing fast, loud sounds or slow, quiet sounds to encourage different speeds of movement.

Preferred engagement method: Touch

How to encourage engagement: Use equipment with a variety of textures, shapes, and sizes

Example: Using a soft fluffy ball in place of a traditional sports ball, to encourage the participant to grip, squeeze and use it.

Outcomes

Sport and physical activity can provide a range of physical, social and personal benefits which can improve a person’s wellbeing and happiness, as well as their ability to perform everyday tasks.

Here are some suggestions of how you might adapt your planning to ensure your delivery helps participants meet their desired outcomes. We have listed a handful of common outcomes, however there are many other outcomes which are not listed below.

Desired Outcome: Strength

How to work towards the outcome: Include activities that require pushing, pulling, lifting, holding and gripping

Example: Participants gripping and pulling on resistance bands.

Desired Outcome: Endurance

How to work towards the outcome: Include activities that require lots of physical movement

Example: Laying objects out across the entire space, encouraging participants to move about the space to engage with each item.

Desired Outcome: Flexibility

How to work towards the outcome: Include activities that require stretching, reaching and twisting in different directions

Example: Hanging sensory objects from above and encouraging participants to reach overhead to explore them.

Desired Outcome: Building relationships and trust

How to work towards the outcome: Include activities that require sharing, working together, taking turns, helping one another

Example: Participants work as a group, passing an object between one another until everyone has held the object.

Desired Outcome: Communication

How to work towards the outcome: Include activities that require participants to identify, demonstrate or make choices

Example: Participants pointing, looking, vocalising or moving in the direction of the person they would like to pass their object to, before passing it on

Desired Outcome: Independence

How to work towards the outcome: Allow participants to complete the activity in a way that works for them, reducing the amount of support provided if appropriate

Example: Setting a broad task (for example, move from cone A to cone B), and allowing participants to do this in their own way (walk, wheel, run, jump etc.)

Top Tip

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Any sport or activity can be adapted to meet any of the above engagement methods or outcomes. Think creatively about your activity, breaking it down into smaller chunks to help identify how you can adapt it to meet people’s needs.