Chicago area adaptive sports put kids with special needs on the move

As parents of children with special needs, we often see more limitations than opportunities for our children. I am guilty of this. At 6, Shea, who cannot stand or walk independently, requires a walker. How on earth would she ever be able to do sports like other children her age? Yet just this year, she has been able to downhill-ski, water-ski and play ice hockey.

The opportunities for children with physical disabilities to participate in sports and outdoor adventures are truly endless, due to the work of some very dedicated athletes and volunteers, including those through the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association, based in Lake Forest, and Adaptive Adventures, based in Wilmette and Denver, Colo.

For young people with disabilities, participating in athletics offers a wide range of benefits. The life skills able-bodied children develop simply by being part of a team or the physical exercise of participating in a sport are often missed by children who have special needs.

GLASA and Adaptive Adventures partner to facilitate such events such as water-skiing, snow-skiing, basketball, tennis and kayaking. Their focus is offering children with physical disabilities and visual impairments opportunities to participate in a variety of sports.

Because adaptive equipment can be expensive, both GLASA and Adaptive Adventures offer scholarships and have lending facilities with equipment such as bicycles, sport wheelchairs and adaptive sled hockey equipment.

Sled hockey

Ice hockey for individuals with physical disabilities.

The athletes play sitting down in a sled and use short hockey sticks to propel themselves across the ice. If a player has additional limitations, they can have an able-bodied player push them across the ice.

Falcons Hockey Organization and GLASA

  • Sled Hockey Program
  • Sundays 3:15-5:30 p.m.
  • Hot Shot Ice Rink, 29860 Skokie Highway, Lake Bluff

Adaptive tennis

Everyone from beginners to competitors can play. Participants use sports wheelchairs and integrate the game into able-bodied tennis with adaptive rules.

GLASA Adaptive Tennis Program

  • Saturdays 3-5 p.m.
  • Northwestern University Combe Tennis Center
  • 2311 Campus Drive, Evanston

Snow- and water-skiing

GLASA partners with Adaptive Adventures to provide instruction and opportunity for those with physical disabilities and visual impairments to try both water-skiing and snow-skiing. Participants range from those with no body control to those who have some strength, and the programs can be adapted to fit specific needs.

The water-ski and kayak program takes place throughout the summer in Twin Lakes, Wis. The snow-ski program is offered on several dates throughout January and February at Wilmot Mountain, Wis.


Need more info? For information about GLASA
activities, contact Keri Schindler, program director, or
(847) 283-0908.

For information about Adaptive Adventures,
contact Joel Berman,
or (847) 251-8445.

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