How much does a gym have to accomodate a child with a disability?

Status
Not open for further replies.
W

watcher

Guest
How much does a gym have to do to accommodate a child with a disability? Do they have to make specific changes in classes/schedules to meet that child's special needs? Who decided what accommodations are appropriate in any given circumstance? the gym? the parent? a doctor? Can the gym be sued if they do not make adequate accommodations for the child's disability?


Any information anyone could share would be helpful.

Thank you.
 
Did ChalkBucket help you?... help us too.

If you can't help financially... tell a friend about us!
I don't have the answers to all of your questions, but I can tell you that there is a young lady with Downs Syndrome that competes Level 5 at DDs gym. She works very hard right along side the other girls and is pretty much treated the same. Some slight adjustments may have been made, but nothing noticable. Her parents are very supportive and the coaches are too! She is quite an inspiration to all of the girls on the team. In addition to gymnastics, she is on a competitive cheer team and her high school squad. We are all VERY proud of her!:)
 
G

gymgramma

Guest
My grandson has Aspergers - high functioning autism. To help with his physical therapy and occupational therapy, he started gymnastics at 4 yrs of age. He was in a beginning class. His mom tried the class for a month (1 class/wk) and then - seeing that her son was being disruptive by his lack of focus - asked the coach if he would give him private lessons. At first, it was only a 15 min lesson - as that was all my grandson could focus for, then after several months he could handle a 30 min lesson. By 6 yrs he was able to fully participate in an intermed rec class w/o being disruptive to anyone in any way and to focus for the entire hour.

I would recommend the private lessons for any spec needs child.
 

Laura

Coach
Coach
Gymnast
Oct 22, 2007
204
London
Country
United Kingdom
I can really only answer from my own personal experien.
Several years ago now I had a girl with autism in one of the groups I was coaching.
This was just a 1hr beginners class, I had 8 girls in total in the class. For the first few weeks I was actually not aware that she had autism. No-one at the gym had spoken to me and neither had the mother (I'm not sure the gym even knew).
The only reason I found out was because the mother came and spoke to me in the middle of a class several weeks into term and said something along the lines of "X has autism it helps if you can get her to look at you when you are speaking" and that was it. Often the mother did not even stay and watch the class.
Bearing in mind I was only about 17 at this time, I found it quite difficult to manage the group and her, as she would keep wandering away and getting in the way of other classes not participating in group activities, refusing to try skills etc. She was also aggressive towards the other girls in the class (and occaisionally me) which was not much fun either.

So from my perspective I think that the parents would need to speak to the gym and the coach and discuss what they are capable of etc and depending on the level/type of disability either a parent or a second coach may be needed to help out. As long as the family and gym can work together there should be no problem in accomodating the child.
re. sueing if accomodations are not made, I'm not really sure. I guess it would depend on anti-discrimination laws in your country/region.
 

Aussie_coach

Moderator/Coach
Staff member
Gold Membership
Coach
Proud Parent
Gymnast
Club Owner
Jan 4, 2008
3,423
Country
Australia
A gym does not have to make accomadations for a gymnast with a disability, in fact they don't even have to accept a child with a disability into their program on the grounds that they don't have the facitilies and the coaching experience to deal with it safely.

However, if a gym does choose to make accomadations it is up to a gym.
 

Tumblequeensmom

Active Member
Proud Parent
Feb 19, 2007
1,453
Also, gyms are not receiving any Federal (or State) funding to maintain operations, therefore they aren't REQUIRED to make any special accommodations, unlike a public school... At least that's my understanding.
 

gymgirl_60

Member
Aug 30, 2008
209
at my gym they have classes for people with autism with two or three coaches or one coach for one kid. i think the coaches (at least one of them) only does these classes
 

MtnGymMom

New Member
May 5, 2008
13
Rocky Mountain West
How much does a gym have to do to accommodate a child with a disability? Do they have to make specific changes in classes/schedules to meet that child's special needs? Who decided what accommodations are appropriate in any given circumstance? the gym? the parent? a doctor? Can the gym be sued if they do not make adequate accommodations for the child's disability?


Any information anyone could share would be helpful.

Thank you.
Private businesses do not have to accept or make special accomodations for any students, special needs or not. However, many gyms do make accomodations depending on the needs of the child.

We offer a special needs class for kids ages 5-9. We have had kids do private lessons. Some parents have hired an aide to come to the class with their child to keep them on-task. ADHD/ADD students are usually good in gymnastics class as long as the teacher knows to keep things moving all the time. All of these options have worked well.

Is there a specific reason you're asking this question? Are you a gym owner wondering what to do for a special needs child? Are you a parent wondering what is offered out there?
 

iluvgym

Coach
Coach
Club Owner
Feb 6, 2008
139
In the US since most gymnastics clubs are private businesses (except for the few parks and rec programs I've heard about run by the town), I don't think legally they are required to offer anything for special needs. Some gyms do offer classes for special needs students, some offer it by private lessons. I guess it depends if they feel they have the staff for it.

If you have a child with special needs I would suggest you contact as many gyms as possible and see which ones can offer you the kind of class you are looking for. Hopefully you live in an area with a variety of gyms to choose from. Good luck.
 

bogwoppit

Former Admin
Gold Membership
Former Gymnast
Feb 26, 2007
16,710
Country
Canada
In Canada when the new gym was bulit a wheelchair accessible toilet had to be included. That is as far as the legal commitment goes.

If I had a special needs child I would approach the head coach directly and discuss those needs. That would give the coach a chance to decide whether provate lessons, smaller ratios etc could work. Sometimes a one on one helper can help too.

If your child has special needs I hope you can find what you are looking for, dealing with gyms can be frustrating when there are no underlying issues, I can only imagine that is magnisfied with special needs.

Good luck.:)
 

ZJsMom

Active Member
Former Gymnast
Proud Parent
May 11, 2007
998
Pacific NW
Country
USA
In the US the Americans with Disabilities Act does apply to private business. It requires that the gym accomodate people with disabilities. Gyms don't have offer special services for the disabled though. So if a disabled child is capable of participating in a regular class, the gym can't exclude him or her just because he/she has a disability. However, many gyms do offer classes specifically for special needs students. If you're in a decent sized city, you could probably find a special needs class.

Here's a link to a description of the requirements of the ADA as it applies to public accomodations: Title III Highlights

And yes you can sue under the ADA, but only for injunctive relief, not monetary damages. So you could get a court order telling the gym it had to accomodate the disabled student.
 
Last edited:

Tumblequeensmom

Active Member
Proud Parent
Feb 19, 2007
1,453
I was under the impression that the OP was asking if the gym had to make special accommodations (as in hiring a "special" coach or buying adaptive equipment, well, you get the drift). I think you would want your child to attend a gym where the owners/coaches were more than willing and happy to have a child w/disabilities attend a class. If they won't allow that without throwing the ADA in the conversation, I think I'd definitely be looking for a different gym! I think most kids w/mild autism, ED, etc., would highly benefit from the structured environment and physical activity that a gymnastics program would have to offer.

I know that there is a local gym that offers sensory motor integration in their program... Gymdog, where are you????

I do know that at my DD's gym, there is way too much noise, activity, bustling around with many classes at one time, it would NOT be an ideal situation for a child with any type of sensory issues.
 

gymdog

Well-Known Member
Coach
Former Gymnast
Proud Relative
Jul 5, 2007
5,121
There are some highly specialized programs out there, but unfortunately they seem to be few and far between. While some gyms do offer specific programs, quality seems to vary.

Honestly I think one of the great failures of the gymnastics community and one of the few things that disappoints me about it is the failure to reach out beyond a relatively small social demographic. And I think the business models that are going to survive - and thrive - in the future are those that are going to create "the new middle" and live up to the expectations of a 21st century society. Since I've been a child, gymnastics has all but disappeared from our local school systems for various reasons, but the main reason in my area is because no one is around advocating for it. We used to have it in PE classes. Sure, our USAG levels have gotten more competitive over the years due to better equipment, etc, but gyms are closing. Classes are the lifeline of any gym, all classes, and no one is ever being exposed. If you want to see gymnastics survive and benefit the most kids, then we need to stop worrying about the 1% who is going to move up the USAG levels the fastest and start putting some energy into reaching out - in a lot of ways. This is a great market. I have seen several local models that have been extremely successful and more importantly for those who are in this for the kids, an extremely important experience for all of them.

People will say, well gymnastics in schools, with all these different kids, is a liability issue. Kind of, yes. But that is what they say when no one tries to challenge it, an excuse per se, because there is no one there to create the exposure anyway, so who cares. It's all too easy. Basic, simple gymnastics, in a controlled environment, is really no more dangerous than allowing a class of children to throw hard baseballs around in my opinion (and if I'm the one throwing and catching them, probably less dangerous :eek:). When I wanted to volunteer teaching some gymnastics at an after-school program geared towards at-risk middle schoolers, all I had to do was ask. I got an amazingly easy "okay" and they loved it.

You aren't necessarily required to provide any services as far as I am aware, besides basic non-discrimination for protected classes. But really, if you're a business, you want to make whatever reasonable accomodations you can. This is a customer-service oriented business. How many people know someone who would need accomodations? I bet we all do. If you alienate people by not making reasonable accomodations, you are going to alienate all the people they know too, really. I'm sensitive to this topic because of my own family and I can tell you that I would never patronize a business if I thought that it was not making reasonable attempts at accomodation. I would take my business to a another business that I see as supporting the entire community. That is not to say they "have" to do anything and I understand that - but when I pay money to see someone's business happening, I want to see some marginal benefit to my community as well. You don't want to burn bridges with people. I think it's worth it for all gyms to look at how they can expand and reach out as part of their long term plan.
 

ginnymac

Parent/Coach
Coach
Former Gymnast
Proud Parent
Jun 26, 2008
386
I am very interested in this discussion. I am a pediatric physical therapist and work with lots of kids with varying levels of disabilities who to participate would need various levels of accommodation.

What I often see as issues in these type situations is there are many different definitions of "reasonable" accommodations.
 

gymdog

Well-Known Member
Coach
Former Gymnast
Proud Relative
Jul 5, 2007
5,121
What I often see as issues in these type situations is there are many different definitions of "reasonable" accommodations.
That's true. I suppose you can't really judge. But I think the gym should be making an effort basically. There's a lot in how you treat people. Will they sit down with someone and try to see what they can do? If they can't handle certain accomodations now, what is their long term plan? Do they network with other gyms or similar services so they can use their connections and knowledge to help others? Probably some people are going to make unreasonable demands, like with anything. But there's also a lot in how you treat people and how you make an effort to reach out. If you make that the spirit of your business, the vast majority of people will see that and appreciate it.
 
B

bribri514

Guest
i don't know anything about running a gym, but i do know a lot about disability accommodation. i'm Deaf and have been doing gymnastics since i was 3. i was always in a regular class and my mom was around to interpret for me (she was allowed on the floor, even after parents were required to sit in the viewing area). by the time i made team my coach had picked up enough sign that my mom being around wasn't necessary. that was a reasonable accomidation. but unlike my public school my gym isn't required to go out and hire an interpreter if my coach isn't around or my mom can't be there or whatever. personally i would never want that for a lot of reasons, but if i did for instance.

when it comes to meets, i get a flag instead of a bell for a timer on my beam routine, and visual start cues for my floor exercise. i don't need special equipment, but if i did, the gym wouldn't have to buy it. if i needed an interpreter, they'd be allowed on the floor (only where my coach is, not on the event floors) but my fam would have to pay for them. once again this isn't an issue. but yeah there is a difference between what a gym is required to do vs. what public schools are required to do. also there are a lot of really easy accomidations gyms can make for people with disabilities to participate.

i don't know if that helped, but i hope it did. good luck!
 

ZJsMom

Active Member
Former Gymnast
Proud Parent
May 11, 2007
998
Pacific NW
Country
USA
Your story is great bribri. And it provides a good example of a reasonable accommodation. Even if a gym has a policy that only gymnasts and coaches are allowed on the floor, making an exception so a deaf student can have an interpreter is definitely a reasonable accommodation.
 
G

gymnut1

Guest
In the US the Americans with Disabilities Act does apply to private business. It requires that the gym accomodate people with disabilities. Gyms don't have offer special services for the disabled though. So if a disabled child is capable of participating in a regular class, the gym can't exclude him or her just because he/she has a disability. However, many gyms do offer classes specifically for special needs students. If you're in a decent sized city, you could probably find a special needs class.

Here's a link to a description of the requirements of the ADA as it applies to public accomodations: Title III Highlights

And yes you can sue under the ADA, but only for injunctive relief, not monetary damages. So you could get a court order telling the gym it had to accomodate the disabled student.
I think it is much the same as this in the UK
 
G

gym4life915

Guest
Our gym has a team for gymnasts with disabilities or special needs. They only come once a week but they all really enjoy it! :) Maybe you could talk to gyms about setting up a class for children with special needs or disabilities :) Maybe you can try to get other parents who have children with special needs or disabilites to join.
 
C

CoachGoofy

Guest
There's the whole reasonable accommodation standard, as stated before. A visual schedule is reasonable and cheap, or breaking down progressions a bit (as one might have to do with typical or unlabeled gymnasts). Rehabilitative equipment? Special coach? Not reasonable.

As a gymnast (which I was previously) I had a few accomodations for weird-but-there issues--namely I did beam in earplugs, and people were so kind as to not make sudden moves next to the vault runway (Gymnast Goofy has HORRID peripheral vision and a horrendous startle reflex. This is a bad combination).

Some programs I've been with had designated classes for students with disabilities, others we've very much integrated the students in with typical peers. I've had a student with apraxia, several with various forms of autism, one with mild CP, and countless with ADD and learning disabilities in rec classes. Quite a few of these gymnasts moved on to team. The kids who couldn't stay in their area were directed towards private lessons, as there was a safety concern for everyone in the gym, but integration worked really well-and the classes were fun to teach (though not every coach agrees with me on this point!)
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Thank you for supporting our sponsors Energym Music & Norberts!