Classroom adjustments: Sport
This podcast is part of a series that highlights adjustments that can be made in the classroom to enable students with disability to access and participate in education on the same basis as their peers.
In this episode, we talk about the common adjustments teachers make to support students with a range of abilities to participate in sport and physical education. Sport is an important part of the school curriculum as it enhances a student’s physical and mental development and can have a profound impact on their learning, as well as social interactions. Some students with disability have to break through many barriers to participate in sports. Some students will struggle with their motor skills and have problems with tasks such as catching and throwing, while other students with learning difficulties may have trouble following the rules of a game.
Students Miles, Will and Sam discuss the challenges they face when it comes to playing sports and talk about the simple adjustments that help them to join in on games and team activities alongside their classmates. Teacher Robyn Goulding explains that the secret to inclusion in sports is having a huge range of adaptive equipment – from mobility aids such as walking frames to multiple-sized and textured balls. Paralympian Jess Gallagher talks about inclusivity in sport, asking a student which sports they like and encouraging them to get involved; and ensuring people are aware of available adaptive equipment and technology. Professor of Clinical Psychology Dr Nicole Rinehart says that simple environmental adjustments such as changing the height of a volleyball net can set students up for success.
Top five takeaways
- Remember that students with disability have to work harder than their peers to participate in sports. Find out which activities your students are interested in and then look at the fundamental movement skills required in that game. Then assign a skills-based role to students with disability to get them involved. The aim of the game should be participation rather than competition.
- Know your learning intention so you can cater to individual needs. In a simple activity such as catching and throwing you may only need to adjust the size of the ball. However, do not remove the expectation that students with disability need to participate. If you make activities too easy for students with disability, you won’t set them up for success.
- Find out what adaptive equipment you can use to help support students on the field. This could be bells in balls, fluorescent vests, wheelchair basketball frames and sensory equipment with different sizes and textures.
- Apply the ‘teaching and coaching; rules and regulations; equipment and environment’ (TREE) model. For example, change the rules and regulations of a game to support students with disability. This could be as simple as changing the size of a target for everyone.
- Create a structure and timetable for your physical education class so students know what to expect from their session – this will help with participation. However, be prepared to be flexible and open-minded, as an adjustment that worked one week may not be so effective the next. In that instance try another approach – review and revise.
- Why is it important not to set the bar too low for students with disability when it comes to participation in sports activities?
- How can I adjust my teaching style or the way I’m communicating to help students with disability to participate in sports?
- What steps can I take to ensure students with disability grow their skills and achieve goals in sports-based activities?
- What kinds of adaptive equipment could I use to support students with different disabilities?
- How can I change the rules and regulations of a game or competition to enable students with disability to be included in activities?
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Approximately 22 minute run time.
Robyn Goulding, Health and Physical Education Teacher, Sunshine Special Developmental School
Dr Nicole Rinehart, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Child Studies Centre, Deakin University
Jess Gallagher, Paralympian, Motivational Speaker, Osteopath, Board Director at Vision 2020
Miles, Year 7 student
Will, Year 6 student
Sam, Year 11 student
Thanks also to
Shawn Stevenson, Participation and Sector Development, Sport and Recreation Victoria
Serpil Senelmis, Written & Recorded
James Brandis, Written & Recorded
Find further resources at Disability Sports Australia, Disability Sport & Recreation, Clearinghouse for Sport and Physical Activity, AllPlay Footy and the NCCD Portal. Download a transcript of the podcast episode.
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