What to Look for in a Quality Sports Program
took two deep rhythmic breaths. He was ready to shoot his foul
shot. He picked up the ball and placed his hand over his head.
He listened for the teacher to ring the bell on the basket six
feet above the ground and with a perfectly cocked wrist he released
the ball. As though guided by radar, the ball landed directly
in the basket. Jeff’s classmates and his teacher cheered. Jeff,
14, who is blind has been given the opportunity to play basketball
just like his non-disabled peers.
Public Law 94-142 (The Education for All Handicapped Children
Act of 1975), which was amended in 1990 and renamed IDEA (Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act), provides children who are disabled
with the right to a free, appropriate public education. In addition,
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was passed in
1990, protects certain specific civil rights of disabled individuals,
such as employment, transportation and public accommodations.
Since the law requires the inclusion of children and, even, adults
with special needs into mainstream society, leisure activities
must become part of that inclusion.
With more and more children with special needs being integrated
in recreational programs each year it had become vital that these
programs meet the individual needs of these students.
is freedom,” says Stu Filan, an adaptive physical educator teacher
at the Guild School in New York. “It’s simple. Why do all kids
like to participate in movement games? Because they love to have
their bodies running in space, jumping on grass and chasing a
Here are some criteria to look for in a recreational program for
children with special needs:
First leisure activities must be safe.
Activities should be fun. The participant must enjoy the experience.
Is the activity purposeful? Is the child simply standing on a
soccer field and not really participating or just running around
a gym for no apparent reason?
Look for activities that adapt games and drills to meet a student’s
needs and ability level. Such activities encourage a sense of
participation. A child does not have to shoot on a regulation
basket to enjoy the experience, “Fulfillment becomes an individualized
experience,” says Filan.
The emphasis is on exploration, “whatever it is that catches their
interest you go with,” says Juliet Collingwood, a Psy.D. in school
psychology at NYU. “The idea is to encourage the child to initiate
reactions. Children will be more invested in an activity if they
chose it and are interested in it.”#
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