If this is your first introduction to interscholastic adapted sports, there are a few things to know about why this movement is so important, who it benefits and how easy and affordable it can be for schools to implement. We invite you to learn more.
Why is this important? Why take action now?
In 2013, the Office of Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” clarifying the obligations of schools with regard to providing sports participation opportunities for students with disabilities. The letter makes it clear that pursuant to existing disabilities laws, schools have an obligation to provide sports participation opportunities through adapted athletic programs. https://www.nfhs.org/articles/top-ten-sports-law-issues-impacting-school-athletics-programs/.
In addition to this, there is a dire need in this country to increase programs for students with disabilities because:
- Students with disabilities do not receive the same amount of physical activity and athletic opportunities as students without disabilities. http:// gao.gov/Products/GAO-10-519
- The lack of opportunity to participate in athletics has been linked to a higher prevalence of obesity and obesity-related secondary conditions in youth with disabilities compared to youth without disabilities. James Rimmer, Co-Chair of the Inclusive Fitness Coalition and Director of the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability
- Children with disabilities have three times as many days spent ill in bed and three times as many school absences as other children. Witt, et al., (2003.) Arch Pediatric Adolesc Med. 157:687-695. Newacheck et al., (1998.) Pediatrics. 102:117,123.
- Children with physical disabilities are often not encouraged to lead active lives and in fact tend to lead sedentary lives with greater health problems and have more physical activity barriers (Longmuir & Bar-Or, 2000, Rimmer, Riley, Wang & Rauworth, 2005).
Who benefits? They do. We do.
PROGRAM BENEFITS FOR STUDENTS WITH PHYSICAL DISABILITIES
Parents whose children participated in the AAASP programs noted reductions over previous years in secondary health complications resulting from sedentary habits. The other top benefits identified by parents and supported through empirical evidence include:
- The opportunity to play sports the kids would otherwise never have
- The ability to work hard, participate in a group, set goals, & excel in sports
- Increased motivation to get good grades, improvement in academics
- Active engagement and friendship with other students, mentors, & coaches
- Increased physical and social competence and perceptions of oneself as an athlete
- Positive perceptions of quality of life and independence
In 2013, the graduation rate for AAASP athletes was 82%, beating the national average of their peers with and without disabilities.
BENEFITS OF DIVERSITY EDUCATION AND THE PERCEPTIONS OF THE NON-DISABLED
It has been said that the greatest challenge to those with disabilities in employment, relationships, housing and other areas of life, is in their ability to overcome the misperceptions of the non-disabled. Surveys of students, teachers and other game attendees, who are non disabled, have resulted in statements too powerful to ignore when considering the unique challenges of living with a disability in society. These include:
- “I am much more likely to hire a person with a disability after seeing this program.”
- “I would date someone with a disability now. I don’t think I would have before.”
- “I think kids with disabilities are kind of hidden – invisible at school. Your program is a game changer. Now it seems they are everywhere, engaged and confident, interacting with their peers and contributing in ways I think they were reluctant to before.”
- “My friends think my brother is cool now. He is so cool!”
We have seen noticeable paradigm shifts occurring within the school and community when adaptedSPORTS become part of the fabric of education. Too, these programs afford researchers new opportunities to study the affects of sport as a motivator to engage socially, academically and as an enhancement to health. But more data is needed in order to establish with some greater certainty the costs associated with the historical lack of action in this area and the still existing deficit of access to sustainable, appropriate sports programs for the disabled, locally and on a regular basis. We want to know:
- What are the common factors affecting those seeking public assistance to cover living and other expenses, among those with the opportunity to participate in sport vs. those not exposed to sport and teams at a young age?
- Of those with disabilities requiring surgeries, medications and hospitalizations for reoccurring and new secondary health conditions – how is that frequency affected once a student becomes physically active through sport? Is the reduction or effect significant enough to warrant the cost of the sports programs themselves.
- What is the current cost of subsidized therapies for depression and other emotional or behavioral conditions? Of hospitalizations for secondary, avoidable conditions directly related to sectary lifestyles?
- How do adaptedSPORTS athletes perform academically when compared to students with and without disabilities of the same age and grade level?
AAASP and our partners are committed to the exploration of these questions through the creation and expansion of opportunities in education-based adapted sports for school children with physical disabilities, affording them the opportunity to increase their physical activity level, enhance self-esteem, form lasting friendships and experience school-based sports in a similar manner as their non-disabled peer.