How to Develop Disability Awareness Using the Sport Education Model: Disability Simulation Exercises Can Promote the Acceptance of Students with Disabilities in Inclusive Settings

Article excerpt

Mrs. Rodriquez has been a physical education teacher at Betsy Ross Middle School for 17 years. She is always looking for ways to update her curriculum for the benefit of her students, so she went to a workshop on the sport education model (SEM) sponsored by her state association. She loved the idea and could not wait to implement it in the fall. Not long after the workshop, Mrs. Rodriquez noticed that two of her students, Jessica and Fernando, were not interacting with their peers during recess. Jessica is a cheerful student with Down syndrome and Fernando is a quiet student with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair independently. Mrs. Rodriquez and other faculty at the school had often talked about how beneficial a disability awareness day would be for the student body, but had never actually organized one. Mrs. Rodriquez thought back to the workshop and decided to embed disability awareness into SEM for the entire physical education curriculum in the fall term.

Mrs. Rodriquez utilized the SEM during her second unit of the fall, in which she taught floor hockey in all her classes. During this time she also incorporated a disability awareness component to increase student knowledge and awareness of children with disabilities. In her class with Jessica and Fernando, students had made the decision to use large Frisbee disks as pucks. Another game modification implemented by the students was the delayed defense rule, in which players could choose three, five, or 10 seconds of delay before a defender could approach them in a game and to have one person in a wheelchair on the team opposite Fernando to equal out the playing field. Everyone shared the responsibility of making floor hockey a fair and fun unit. Jessica loved being both the announcer and a referee. Fernando loved being on offense and being in charge of updating league standings and statistics after the day's game play had concluded. Overall, the SEM was a huge hit in all the classes and the students succeeded in becoming more aware of ways to include their peers with disabilities.

The above scenario is a success story that demonstrates how the SEM can be used properly. Everyone wins when the SEM is appropriately implemented to introduce disability awareness and to facilitate inclusion.

One of the goals of Healthy People 2010 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2000) is to decrease the disparity in physical activity among individuals with disabilities. Currently it is estimated that 13 percent of students in the United States have individualized education programs, or IEPs (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006). It is the position of the Adapted Physical Activity Council (APAC) of the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation that students with disabilities should be included in general education to the maximal extent possible (Tripp, Piletic, & Babcock, 2004). More than ever, it is now very likely that children with disabilities will find themselves in general physical education classes, recess, and extracurricular sports. To ensure successful experiences in these settings, it is important for the teacher to provide an environment of acceptance that will give all individuals the opportunity to be physically active.

For this to happen, it is important that students without disabilities acknowledge and have a positive attitude towards students with disabilities (Mullen, 2001). Acceptance by teachers and fellow students is one of many barriers that individuals with disabilities encounter (Tripp & Rizzo, 2006; Wong, Chan, DaSilva-Cardoso, Lam, & Miller, 2004). To reduce this barrier, it has been suggested that a change of attitudes might be accomplished through education and disability simulation exercises (Grayson & Marini, 1996).

Some research indicates that physical education is a natural setting to change students' attitudes by offering disability awareness in the curriculum (Loovis & Loovis, 1997). …