Five Wheelchair-Accessible Games for Gym Class

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom and author
04/15/24  3:30 AM PST

Gym class has always been a bit of a sore spot for me. Sure, I would lace up my Keds and hike up my spandex biking shorts from the Limited Too and get out there with the rest of them. But when it came to group sports, I was never picked first, or last, but I was always a held-breath away from last. Gym was inexplicably right after lunch and the timed mile was inevitably on Taco Tuesday. I ran my little heart out, burping up chili powder and grease and cheese and watching kid after kid cross the finish line ahead before me. I think that’s why I chose a solo sport in high school and college – singles tennis was made for me, singles being the operative word.

My son Charlie, however, does not have the option to go it alone in gym class, and more importantly, he doesn’t want to. He wants to play with his friends. But for a kid with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, the group interaction is limited, unless the teacher (or more often, the parent of the child) gets creative and starts making suggestions. So, if you are the parent or caregiver of someone with a physical disability who needs to have fun in gym, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Street Hockey

You know what beats kickball, dodgeball, and soccer? Street hockey. Who wouldn’t want to be handed a stick to whack at a moving object at full speed? This is an excellent wheelchair game and one of my son’s absolute favorites. Bonus points if you live in a cold climate and can take it out on the ice. Yes, we have done this in the wheelchair, and yes, it is epic as it sounds.

  1. Bean Bag Toss

If you need a more chill activity, try the bean bag toss. This game is great for any locale as it is portable and requires almost no movement other than a good underhanded toss. This is a favorite of ours for picnics and barbecues as well.

  1. Red Light, Green Light

Charlie loves nothing more than to be in charge of the “red light, green light” call out. He uses his speaking device to order his classmates around and they have no complaints! This is a great one for the gym, as you don’t have to go at full speed or at full distance to make it fun.

  1. Simon Says

This one is great for the parent or gym teacher who needs to get their kids to practice listening skills. I was terrible at Simon Says. I still hear a phantom whistle and “Simon didn’t say!” in my head, but Charlie is stellar at this call-and-response game.

  1. Parachute Play

This was perhaps my favorite game as a child. Do you remember it? The gym teacher unfurled a huge nylon circle of colored material and everyone grabbed an edge and then slowly you start to shake it, lift it, toss balls on top of it to pop like popcorn. The options are endless, but the absolute best on is when you lift it as high as you can go and rust under so that it domes over and you are enclosed in a kaleidoscope bubble of colored light.


I hope that these games can open up a world for your child to enjoy gym class. But more than anything, I hope this offers a few ways for them to interact with their peers and do what kids were built to do: play.


child with special needs
Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom and author.
Author of the middle-grade novels:















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