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Feeling included -- kids with disabilities have their say in landmark study
Date:12/8/2010

frequently expressed the need to feel valued, evolving the second major theme: feeling like a legitimate participant. Says Spencer-Cavaliere, "For the children this meant that once within a physical activity or play environment, taking on roles that were meaningful, feeling a part of the game: feeling important, as though you had a valued role."

One boy talked about being sent onto the field during the closing minutes of a soccer match when the team was losing badly. "The child was told to go in," says Spencer-Cavaliere, "but with little time left and the team about to lose anyway, he said, 'I know it's being 'included' but you just don't feel like you're included.' Being in the game isn't the same as feeling as though you're part of it."

In the third theme, having friends, children stressed the value of true friendships, having someone they could depend on and trust. "That allowed children to be less concerned about their performance and more invested in being part of the game and having a good time because they were in a safe place with people who accepted and valued them."

One surprise for Spencer-Cavaliere: "Children were given a broad spectrum of things they could talk about but they never mentioned physical education when discussing feeling included," she says. "This may mean they don't consider physical education as inclusive because it's very structured by adults. It seems that other children and their behaviour make the distinction between feeling included or belonging that could arise in other play settings where children could direct and make decisions about who takes part.

"With that said, the free play setting is a major challenge for children with disability," says Spencer-Cavaliere, "simply because you're really dependent on other children who are not always mature, or understand or appreciate difference and value that."

So what's a teacher, coach, parent to do to help kids with disability feel included? "
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Contact: Jane Hurly
jane.hurly@ualberta.ca
780-492-6821
University of Alberta - Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation
Source:Eurekalert

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