2003 Conference Proceedings

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RECREATION THROUGH EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN WITH TECHNOLOGY

Presenter
Denise Swafford Perkerson, M.Ed.
T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability
P.O. Box 9736
Mississippi State, MS 39762
Phone: 662-325-1028
Fax: 663-325-0896
Email: dperkerson@tkmartin.msstate.edu

Least restrictive environment, as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1997), requires that "to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities . . . are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular education environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily." According to the 22nd Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2001), information gathered from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico pertaining to children ages 6-21 served under IDEA, Part B, during the 1997-1998 school year, shows that 20.4% of students with disabilities (all categories) are served outside the regular classroom for greater than 60% of! their school day.

Too many students with disabilities spend the vast majority, if not all of their school day, in self-contained classrooms, affording them no opportunity for interaction with their typically developing peers. While it is understandable that the academic needs of some of these students are best served in such a setting, it should not be assumed that these students are incapable of participating with their peers in extracurricular activities.

Assistive technologies may very well be a solution to the problem of actively involving students with disabilities in school related activities. However, many school personnel, particularly those who work primarily with typically-developing students, are not adept at determining which students may benefit from assistive technologies, nor or they adept at selecting and implementing such technologies, encompassing both low and high technological solutions, for such students. School personnel need to know effective strategies for selecting and implementing assistive technologies, but according to Coffey and Cirlot-New (2001), education personnel frequently lack the knowledge and skills required to utilize assistive technology. In order to ensure that students with disabilities are able to participate in school related activities, it is crucial that school district personnel are able to identify which students with disabilities may benefit from assistive technology. Additionally, school district personnel must be able to select and implement assistive technologies, encompassing both low and high technological solutions, for such students.

While there are various opportunities for recreation available to children with disabilities, they often do not offer opportunities for inclusion with typically developing peers. And while there are numerous extracurricular activities offered by schools, very few of these activities are enjoyed by students with disabilities. While there is definitely a place for programs specific to students with disabilities, such as Challenger Baseball and the YAI Players Theater of Dreams, it is also possible for students with disabilities to be involved with the school baseball team and drama club. With the benefits afforded through assistive technology, the possibilities for inclusion of students with disabilities in any extracurricular activity are endless.

A recent review of the literature found no model programs or demonstration projects for enabling students with disabilities to participate in existing school sponsored extracurricular activities. The issue of including students with disabilities with their typically developing peers for recreational purposes, specifically involvement in extracurricular activities, has simply not been addressed.

Project REACT was designed as a model demonstration project focusing on enabling students with disabilities to participate in existing school sponsored extracurricular activities of their choosing. Participants in the project (i.e., school personnel and community leaders) gained knowledge of how to assist students with disabilities in participating in such activities through appropriate training in identifying barriers and then utilizing assistive technology, when appropriate, for removing such barriers.

Project REACT has expanded recreational access for a considerable number of students with disabilities by facilitating their participation in extracurricular activities. While some students participated on a modified basis, many became independent, full participants in extracurricular recreational activities.

The extracurricular activities of students often comprise the majority of their "recreation"; they spend countless hours after school and on weekends participating in school and community sponsored activities, clubs, and sports. Such opportunities should be available to students with disabilities as well; therefore, it is important to introduce resources that can expand access for students who may not otherwise participate.

References

Coffey, K., & Cirlot-New, J. (2001, January). Project STAR: Using assistive technology. Paper presented at the meeting of TAM 2001: A Technology Odyssey.

Office of Special Education Programs. (2000). Monitoring Reports. [WWW document]. URL: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/OSEP/

U.S. Department of Education. (2001). To assure the free appropriate public education of all children with disabilities: Twenty-second annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


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