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Disabled children can't grow up to be active adults

Who says we can't change this perception? 

Watch this film and find out how you can call time on negative perceptions about disability, inclusion, and sport. 

Watch disabled children can't grow up to be active adults film

(Disabled children can't grow up to be active adults transcript)

Who Says? Campaign LogoWho says? – our exciting campaign is back and this time it’s all about children and young people. Join us in calling time on negative perceptions about disability, inclusion, and sport.

This phase of the campaign focuses on changing attitudes towards disabled children and young people in sport and activity. The campaign films explore four negative perceptions that can impact a disabled child’s opportunities to be active. Attitudes can make or break activity experiences. In society, disabled people of all ages experience countless harmful opinions that lead to marginalisation, low confidence, and inactivity. That's why changing attitudes is crucial in ensuring a future active generation.

This page responds to Activity Alliance and others' research and insight on the perception – Disabled children can't grow up to be active adults

What do we know? 

Insight from our 2020 research report – My Active Future: including every child 

    • At Key Stage 1, a similar proportion of disabled and non-disabled children are classed as ‘less active’ (17% and 16%). This gap grows steadily over age, and by Key Stage 4, 48% of disabled children are less active compared to 28% of non-disabled children.
    • As disabled children get older they are more likely to worry about how they look compared to their non-disabled peers (27% vs 11%).
    • Almost half (49%) of disabled children in Key Stage 4 view their impairment as the top barrier to being active, compared to 37% and 6% in Key Stage 1 and 2.

Insight from Active Beyond Education? research report (2015)

    • Young disabled people can struggle to take part in sport and physical activity due to a deterioration or change in their physical condition.
    • Young disabled people often lack ‘life skills’ such as confidence, independence, and resilience. These skills can be crucial in enabling them to seek physical activity opportunities outside of the school environment.
    • Participation in sport and physical activity is dependent on the available opportunities meeting a young disabled person’s motivations to take part. These motivations can often change during the transition from education to adulthood.
    • A number of key external factors impact a young disabled person’s opportunity to engage in sport during the transition period. These include access to sport inside and outside of school, support received from family and friends, availability of adaptive support, equipment, and other resources.

Calling time on this perception 

A good sporting experience is important for everyone. That’s why our experiences from a young age can affect the way we feel about being active over our lifetime. It can lead us to feel inadequate, marginalised, or low in confidence.

There needs to be more and better links to opportunities in the community so young disabled people can stay active after they leave education. Sports and activities can be adapted so more people with different impairments and health conditions can enjoy being active in any setting. Positive early engagement in sport and activity for disabled children is essential to ensuring they can go on to live healthy, active lives.   

We know that the likelihood of being disabled increases with age. As people get older, the chance of acquiring new impairments or managing health conditions grows. If we ensure high quality meaningful active experiences from early on, we are more likely to believe ‘sport is for people like me’.

Who says? empowers people, on and off the field of play, to challenge their own and others’ perceptions.

Young disabled man smiling at yoga instructor while taking part in the yoga class

Being Active Guide

An everyday guide for people living with an impairment or health condition on how and where to start being more physically active. Activity Alliance wrote this guide in partnership with Disability Rights UK and it provides information in a quick, easy format. 

Being Active Guide

Young Athletes Programme – Special Olympics GB 

Young Athletes™ is an innovative sports play programme for children with intellectual disabilities ages two to seven, designed to introduce them to the world of sport. It was created for families to do at home, and for nurseries, schools, and playgroups with small groups of children with and without intellectual disabilities. The programme focuses on cognitive development, physical and social skills, building confidence, and providing positive early experiences of sport and activity for young children. 

Special Olympics GB Young Athletes Programme

WheelPower workouts for young people

WheelPower has created a series of themed virtual workout classes for disabled children and young people. Classes are aimed at both primary and secondary aged children, but that doesn't mean they can't be enjoyed by the whole family, or even your class at school Fun themes include superheroes, animals, pirates and more! 

View WheelPower workouts for young people 


Limbformation offers support to children and families living with limb difference. Designed as an easy to use one-stop shop providing information, resources, advice, and useful links with a child born with a congenital limb disorder or with an acquired amputation.

Visit Limbformation website

UK Deaf Sport children and young people resources 

UK Deaf Sport is working with Sport England to provide Deaf and HOH (Hard Of Hearing) people of all ages with accessible, deaf friendly resources and activities. On their website you will find some fun routines for children and young people covering a variety of high and low intensity sports and activities! 

Visit UK Deaf Sport website

Inclusion 2024

This project is funded by the Department of Education and led by the Youth Sport Trust on behalf of a consortium of organisations including Activity Alliance, the British Paralympic Association, nasen, and Swim England. Inclusion 2024 aims to increase and improve opportunities for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to engage and participate in physical education and school sport.

The programme will:

  • Improve the quality of schools’ PE and sports teaching and provision for pupils with SEND
  • Increase opportunities for pupils with SEND to achieve 30 active minutes within the school day
  • Increase the engagement and participation of pupils with SEND with PE and school sport
  • Improve the quality of swimming and water safety lessons for pupils with SEND
  • Facilitate integration of PE and school sport provision for pupils with SEND.

Find out more about Inclusion 2024 

Inclusive PE activity cards

Activity Alliance and partners have created a series of inclusive PE activity cards for teachers and school staff. The cards are jam-packed with fun games and activities, and support teachers to ensure their PE lessons are inclusive and accessible for all school pupils.

PE activity card resources for schools

Activity Alliance Profiling Tooklit

Our Toolkit enables teachers, coaches, and physiotherapists to identify ability, measure progress and develop the talent of every disabled child and adult.

Activity Alliance Profiling Toolkit


Parasport powered by Toyota is the new way to discover inclusive local opportunities to become more active.

Visit Parasport website

National Disability Sports Organisations

The National Disability Sports Organisations (NDSOs) are a good starting point for advice, support, and opportunities. They can provide useful information on adapting sports for people of all ages with specific impairments. Many of the NDSOs hold fun sports events for children and young people throughout the year.

The eight NDSOs are: British Blind Sport, Cerebral Palsy Sport, Dwarf Sports Association UK, LimbPower, Mencap, Special Olympics Great Britain, UK Deaf Sport and WheelPower.

Find out more about National Disability Sports Organisations

Get Out Get Active learning resources

This series of learning resources shares the What? How? Who? And What next of our Get Out Get Active programme. They aim to help others to be genuinely inclusive and reach people that would benefit most from being more active. In these resources you will find evidence-based approaches to engaging inactive people successfully. 

Learning resources from Get Out Get Active

Call time on negative perceptions with us

Taking the conversation beyond the #WhoSays hashtag is important to us. It’s crucial we talk honestly and openly about matters that affect disabled people’s activity, like policy, funding, and the media. We hope this campaign leads to bigger conversations, greater collaboration, and wider systemic responses.

If you, or your organisation would like to get involved, has a story to share, or you have a great idea for the campaign, please contact or call 0161 200 5443.

Get involved and join the conversation on social media – share the films and add your voice to the campaign by posting your own experiences using #WhoSays.

Who says we can’t change this perception and more? Thank you for your support.  

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