Identifying the Disabilities
Identifying the Disabilities

Familiarize yourself with the different disabilities and the possible limitations. Many children with less severe disabilities can be included in the conventional youth soccer programs with success.

Learning Disabilities:

  • The inability to acquire or retain specific skills due to deficiencies in attention, memory or reasoning.

Physical Disabilities:

  • A disease, disorder, birth defect or accident that my cause a physical disability.

The following disabilities may affect both learning and physical abilities:


Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

  • The child may have a hard time staying on task and maintaining focus.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)

  • a condition that can make it hard for a person to sit still, control behavior, and pay attention.

      Suggestions for children with ADD and ADHD:
      • change the activity frequently
      • keep busy and repeat directions
      • keep activities simple
      • physical demonstrations rather than verbal instructions
      • may require a ‘soccer buddy’


  • a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)

  • a child has difficulty in talking, playing with other children, and relating to others; including their family.

      Suggestions for children with Autism and PDD:
      • do not use a loud whistle – it may hurt their ears
      • keep surroundings familiar
      • arrange equipment in a consistent, organized manner
      • concentrate on verbal communication skills
      • may require a ‘soccer buddy’

Tourette’s Syndrome (TS)

  • A neurological disorder characterized by tics -- involuntary, rapid, sudden movements or vocalizations that occur repeatedly in the same way.
    • you may have to disallow the child from play if their behavior compromises their safety or the safety of others.

Emotionally Disturbed (ED)

  • inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors; inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships. Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings displayed under normal circumstances.

      Suggestions for children with ED:

      • create a structured environment with a lot of support
      • keep the child busy through simple activities
      • concentrate on focus and repetition

Hearing Impaired

  • hearing impairment" is often used generically to describe a wide range of hearing losses, including deafness.

      Suggestions for children with hearing impairments:

      • may require the assistance of an interpreter (sign language)
      • speak slowly in a normal speech pattern as they can lip read
      • ensure that hearing aids or voice boxes are safely worn to prevent injury

Visual Impairment (including blindness)

  • the consequence of a functional loss of vision

Vision eye disorder causing visual impairment.

      Suggestions for children with visual impairments:
      • use large brightly colored balls or sound activated balls
      • use brightly colored goals, cones or pinnies
      • ensure that sight aides are safely worn to prevent injury

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

  • A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain caused by the head being hit by something or shaken violently.

      • may require the use of a helmet.


  • Asthma is a chronic condition in which breathing problems, such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath are caused by allergens or other environmental triggers.

      Suggestions for children with Asthma

      • avoid overheating and give frequent breaks
      • whenever possible, practice in areas that have less pollen
      • if the child requires an inhaler, make sure it is always present

Cerebral Palsy (CP)

  • a muscle control disability caused by perinatal or postnatal brain or head injury in which they have difficulty controlling the use of their body or parts of their body.

      Suggestions for children with Cerebral Palsy:

      • ensure that mobility aids are safely prepared to prevent injury
      • modify playing field for restricted mobility

Cystic Fibrosis (CF)

  • Those affected have high levels of sodium and chloride (salt) in their sweat. More importantly, a thick, sticky mucous in the lungs causes persistent coughing, wheezing and frequent lung infections, including pneumonia.

      Suggestions for children with Cystic Fibrosis:

      • avoid overheating and give frequent breaks
      • avoid prolonged activity or running long distances
      • notify parents when their child might be exposed to others with colds or coughs

Down Syndrome

  • caused by a chromosomal abnormality: an accident in cell development results in 47 instead of the usual 46 chromosomes. This extra chromosome changes the orderly development of the body and brain.

      Suggestions for children with Down Syndrome:

      • keep activities simple and repetitive
      • appropriate physical communication is preferred (high-fives)
      • may require a softer ball
      • may require a ‘soccer buddy’

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS/Crack Babies)

  • combination of birth defects caused by the mother’s consumption of alcohol or drugs during pregnancy.

      Suggestions for children with FAS:

      • keep activities simple
      • may require a ‘soccer buddy’

Mental Retardation (MR)

  • certain limitations in mental functioning and in skills such as communicating, daily living skills, and social skills.

      Suggestions for children with Mental Retardation:

      • color coordinate uniforms or pinnies with goals
      • keep activities simple
      • physical demonstrations rather than verbal instructions
      • may require a ‘soccer buddy’

Missing or Deformed Appendages

  • impairments caused by congenital anomaly (e.g., clubfoot, absence of some member, etc.) and/or impairments caused by disease, amputations, and fractures or burns.

      Suggestions for children with missing appendages:

      • make modifications
      • ensure that mobility aids are safely prepared to prevent injury

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

  • disease of the central nervous system. Typically, the symptoms include weakness in coordination, digression, speech disturbances, and visual complaints.

      Suggestions for children with Multiple Sclerosis:

      • pace activities slowly avoid getting children overtired
      • ensure that mobility aids are safely prepared to prevent injury
      • notify parents when exposure to infection has or may occur

Muscular Dystrophy (MD)

  • Generalized muscle weakness with possible joint deformities. Disease progresses very slowly.

      Suggestions for children with Muscular Dystrophy:

      • speak normally – these children do not have any learning impairments
      • pace the activities and give frequent breaks
      • ensure that mobility aids are safely prepared to prevent injury

Seizure Disorder/Epilepsy

  • a physical condition that occurs when there is a sudden, brief change in how the brain works. Consciousness, movement, or actions may be altered for a short time.

      Suggestions for children with Seizure Disorder:

      • avoid extreme physical or emotional activities
      • in event of a seizure, keep child clear of dangerous hard objects
      • remain calm if a seizure occurs
      • alert parent or guardian
      • may require the use of a helmet

Spina Bifida

  • means cleft spine, which is an incomplete closure in the spinal column. Depending on the severity, the child may not be ambulatory.

      Suggestions for children with Spina Bifida:

      • avoid exercises that require lying on the ground
      • may require a ‘soccer buddy’
      • ensure that mobility aids are safely prepared to prevent injury

Canes Feeding tubes
Crutches Oxygen tanks
Braces Hearing aids
Walkers Speech boxes

Designing a Special Needs Program

  • Develop the program to meet the needs of the children in your group.

Soccer Laws

  • The special needs program is unique. The governing soccer authority in the United States (US Soccer Federation, USSF) grants liberty to special program administrators to modify laws for increased player safety and enjoyment.


  • a suitable volunteer to work directly with a child with special needs.


  • It is recommended by US Youth Soccer Association that the TOPSoccer program does not allow children to be in goal.


  • is the most important part of the game.