Off the Sidelines -
Into the Game
Who We Are
The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, Inc. (AAASP) is a 501c3 organization that provides services to Local Education Agencies, State High School Associations and State Departments of Education in extracurricular adapted athletics for physically disabled children attending grades 1-12 to improve their well-being while positively influencing total student development.
The AAASP model has been in place since 1996, and ensures disabled students the opportunity to experience the benefits of school sport competition just as their non-disabled peers do.
AAASP was founded in Atlanta after the 1996 Paralympic Games and in response to a groundswell of interest by parents and community officials in competition opportunities for students with disabilities. With years of relevant program experience, a vision for a sustainable competition model and a fast commitment to enhancing the future of these students, Bev Vaughn and Tommie Storms founded AAASP. The idea was to mobilize community support while offering a programming solution that was easy to adopt
Two decades later AAASP programs are the most successful examples of competitive, interscholastic adapted sports. The partnership with school districts, state and national agencies, and a mobilized community has resulted in broad adoption. To date over 1700 competitions have been contested and enrollment has surpassed 5600 participants over the lifetime of the program.
AAASP has created the essential elements school districts need to successfully offer adapted teams sports for students with disabilities, developing (but not limited to, the following):
- Published Competition Rules
- Standardized Seasons
- Safety Guidelines
- Coaches & Officials Training
- Compliant Guidelines & Inclusive Policies
These inclusive and highly effective programs, supported by partnerships and community networks are AAASP’s vision, and its goal is the adoption of these programs wherever there is a need.
The AAASP Mission
To expand and sustain a standardized structure for education-based athletic competition to improve the well-being of students with physical disabilities.
The AAASP Vision
AAASP envisions a society where all children with physical disabilities can experience the rewards and satisfaction of competitive school-based sports.
The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs (AAASP) represents a standardized approach to interscholastic sports programming for students with physical disabilities. It’s a not-for-profit association dedicated to developing adapted interscholastic sport programs in partnership with national, state, and local educational agencies. This cooperative approach represents the most successful model for affording students with physical disabilities access to competitive sport.
Our Core Values
- Every young person with a physical disability should have an opportunity to participate in appropriate interscholastic athletic programs, thereby affording them the ability to achieve the same or similar known positive outcomes as their non-disabled peers.
- Any young person who participates in adapted sports programs should have the guidance of adults with proper sports training.
- The standardization of sports seasons, rules, policies, and ethical guidelines are essential to the long-term success of interscholastic adapted athletics.
- Continuous, stable, and quality extracurricular adapted athletic programs are possible only with the aid of solid governance, leadership and the commitment of educational agencies.
How Does the Program Work?
AAASP partners with State High School Athletic Associations and schools across the United States to provide opportunities for students with physical disabilities to participate in team sports which are offered during the school year with wheelchair team handball provided in the fall season, wheelchair basketball during the winter season, and wheelchair football and wheelchair track and field during the spring season. All students participate in a wheelchair, whether they use one on a daily basis or not. This helps level the playing field and engages more students with physical disabilities in athletics. Players learn basic fundamental sports skills in the fall that they build upon and translate to other sports throughout the school year.
The American Association of adaptedSPORTS Programs, Inc. (AAASP) works in cooperation and partnership with existing agencies throughout the U.S. to establish program oversight, policies, procedures, and regulations in education-based adapted sports.
AAASP's Core Attributes
A Network of School Member Programs
Teams are formed on a district-wide level and are comprised of students from elementary, middle and high schools within that district. In rural areas, several districts may collaborate to form teams.
Planning, resource development, training, inclusive policies, guidelines, published competition rules, compliance, leadership, program implementation, technical assistance, research and evaluation
- Training of school personnel including coaches and area coordinators
- Training of officials
- Published rules of play for each sport
- An established schedule of sport seasons
Resources: Publication & Equipment
Put simply, we train coaches, coordinators, officials and school administrators how to engage, serve and fully integrate the last group of students still sidelined in sports in America's schools - those with physical disabilities. That's HUGE! But it's no longer hugely difficult or expensive.
Since our founding in Atlanta in 1996, AAASP has been hailed as the "premier" organization successfully serving, "America's Sidelined Kids." We've demonstrated that when a school system adds even one adapted sports program, the overall physical and emotional health of their students with physical disabilities is positively affected, along with their academic performance.
AN AWARD-WINNING APPROACH
AAASP employs a competitive, cross-disability model that maximizes the number of students and types of disabilities who may be eligible for a single team.This approach has been a game changer–making the formation of local school teams possible at the district and regional level.
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.
Adapted sports athletes are not eligible for Special Olympics. The two organizations target different populations. AAASP serves students with physical disabilities, while Special Olympics serves people with intellectual disabilities.
Have a question that you don't see answered here?
Please click here to contact AAASP and a member of our staff will respond to your inquiry.
Did You Know?
Physical activity reduces obesity and helps prevent health problems like heart disease, breast cancer, and stress-related illnesses like depression. The benefits of physical education programs are equally important for students with disabilities as they are for all students.
It's a Fact!
Individuals with disabilities who participate in sports have higher self-esteem, better body images, and higher rates of academic success; and are more likely to graduate from high school and matriculate in college; and experience greater success and more options.
The adaptedSPORTS® Model
AAASP employs athletics through a system called the adaptedSPORTS® Model. This award-winning model is an interscholastic structure of multiple sports seasons that are included in the traditional interscholastic athletic system and supports the concept that school-based sports are a vital part of the education process and the educational goals of students.
The sports featured in the adaptedSPORTS® Model have their origin in Paralympic and adult disability sports; however, they are innovative in that they are cross-disability in nature. AAASP has adapted these sports for the student-athlete based on their functional ability. By providing standardized competition rules, it is possible for the widespread implementation of an interscholastic adapted athletic system. Additionally, student athletes are developing the skills that can lead to participation at the collegiate, community and elite levels.
On January 24, 2013 the Office of Civil Rights issued a Dear Colleague letter clarifying schools’ obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to provide extracurricular athletic opportunities to students with disabilities. This Dear Colleague letter provides a clear roadmap for interpreting the guidance so that schools can better integrate students with disabilities into mainstream athletic programs–and create adapted programs for students with disabilities.*
*from "Know Your Rights: Disability in Sports" by Active Policy Solutions