Extracurricular Activities for Children in Special Education

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Children in special education can benefit tremendously from involvement in extracurricular activities. This lesson gives you some ideas for activities to benefit your students with special needs.

Why Extracurricular Activities Count

Children with special needs often get a great deal of support in school, but that does not mean that their learning ends when the school day does. In fact, extracurricular activities can make a huge difference in a special education student's life. Extracurricular activities can enhance special education students' learning, while offering ways for students to express themselves and explore strengths that are not as valued during the school day.

This lesson offers you some ideas for extracurricular activities that can be especially meaningful for students with special needs. Of course, it is important to remember that every special education student is different, so think about the activities that are most compatible with your students' interests and capacities.

Motor Activities

Many students with special needs benefit from activities that make them feel comfortable using their bodies and developing strength. Check out opportunities in your area for adaptive dance, self-defense, and yoga classes.

Adaptive Dance

Usually taught in the context of modern dance or jazz, adaptive dance classes modify traditional dance moves and choreography to meet the needs of students who need more core strengthening or to learn more about personal space and body management. Students can also practice performance skills and enjoy creative movement to music.


Many students with special needs are at high risk for being abused in a variety of situations. Taking a self-defense class to learn some basic martial arts as well as develop muscle strength, speed, and agility can make a huge difference. Self-defense classes also help students feel more confident and take a greater sense of ownership over their bodies.


Many special education students feel anxious or stressed out. Doing yoga can help not only with strength but also with relaxation and centering techniques. When students learn to incorporate yoga into their daily lives, they feel a greater sense of control over their bodies as well as over their emotional experiences.

Cognitive Activities

Special education students can also benefit from activities that allow them to develop cognitively in out-of-the-box ways.

Programming and Robotics

Many special education students love to use technology and can have a lot of fun taking classes that allow them to learn coding, programming, and basic robotics. Technology classes can also be great for those students who struggle with socializing, because they will meet others with common interests and learn to use technology as a group rather than as a means for avoiding social interaction.

Word Games and Puzzles

Sometimes, special education students start to feel so stressed out and defeated by school that they forget that reading, writing, and math can actually be a lot of fun. Consider a games group that centers around word games and puzzles. A group like this can help students to remember that language can be fun and that learning to read, write, and think spatially do not have to be pressure-filled experiences.

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