Up to 25% of children are categorized as special needs and diagnosed with a huge range of neurological disorders. For many of these kids, chess can have a big effect on their lives. But it is precisely these kids, who have the most to benefit from chess, who will, in numerous cases, and for an assortment of reasons, don’t join a school chess club, or not even like it if they do join.
Often, children with issues in one area will have issues in another area too. Some (but not all) kids with special needs will get enormous benefit from chess.
Although kids with more general learning difficulties will most likely struggle with chess, many kids with dyslexia and other conditions like non-verbal learning disorder do wonderful at chess. Several dyslexics have a very solid visuospatial cognizance which comes in handy with the chessboard.
Although some of these kids don’t like reading, there are now several other ways of getting chess information, so this is not really going to be a handicap. For those who don’t have a lot of academic success, success at chess, using their visuospatial abilities, will bring their self-esteem a big boost.
Children with physical issues like dyspraxia may not be able to shine at most sports. But chess will give them a competitive arena in which they may be able to shine. They probably are last to be chosen for the football team. But if, while the others are throwing balls around, they are studying chess, they’ll be the first to be chosen for the chess team. Not being great at sports is hard, particularly for boys where popularity is usually defined by success on the sports field. For these kids, chess will be one of the few outlets available to use their competitive spirit.