Virginia AHPERD_Winter2022

Transitioning from Segregated to Inclusive Recreation It may seem like a daunting task to transition a from a specialized recreation program to an inclusive one, especially if the specialized program is all the person with a disability has ever known. There are several keys that both the person with the disability (and family members), as well as the recreation provider, can do to support the transition to inclusive recreation. First is having programs with a non-competitive goal. When people are asked what they preferred about specialized recreation as opposed to inclusive recreation, a finding was the opportunity for skill-building as opposed to competition (Mayer & Anderson, 2014). If recreation providers are able to provide programs where skill building, socialization and cooperation are the focus, inclusion may be more successful. This may not only be helpful to those with disabilities, but for any person who wants to try a new program, or learn a new recreation skill, without the intensity of competition. Another way to support the transition to inclusive programs is to use clear communication with participants. Before starting a new program, there should be an open discussion about what supports and accommodations the person may need, and ways to achieve success using these supports. Knowing what has worked in the past, or what areas may be of a concern, is a key to success. Knowing the individual’s strengths, and how they can use these strengths to be successful in the program is key for the recreation provider to be successful. Including these questions in program registration materials, along with a follow up meeting with CTRS on staff to talk about specific supports is recommended. Another recommendation is to ask the person if they are comfortable with providing, or working with the CTRS to provide, peer education so they can educate others in the program on what may or may not be beneficial ways to help them. Case Study Jack is a 6-year-old child with autism. Jack has been expressing interest in sports, and Jack’s mom feels that it would be beneficial for him to participate in an organized recreation program. Cur rently, Jack attends a private Pre-K program and attends private swimming lessons with an instructor who has a background in working with children with autism, but he does not participate in any other formal recreation programming. Jack’s mom thinks he would enjoy participating in soccer, but she doesn’t know where to start. In the past, she has inquired about various inclusive recreation opportunities, but has felt that providers were not en couraging her to enroll Jack, but instead, pushing her to look for a program specifically for children with autism. For this reason, she is nervous to enroll Jack in the general soccer program. The park and recreation program brochure lists specific programs for people with disabilities, but doesn’t directly mention anything about options for inclusive participation. Jack’s mom called the recreation provider and discovered that they have a CTRS on staff. She met with the CTRS and together they identified Jack’s strengths, as well as areas he may need additional support. They identified Jack’s strengths: ● Jack is very good at following specific directions. ● Jack does best with visual reminders.

● When he likes something, Jack can stay on task for long periods of time. ● Jack has 2 friends from Pre-K that are also planning to play soccer. Then Jack’s mom talked about what extra support would help Jack to participate successfully: ● Apicture transition board to help Jack know what is coming up next during practice. ○ Mom is willing to make this with input from the coach. ● The ability to be on a team with at least one of his peers from Pre-K. ● The help of the CTRS as an inclusion support for the first 1-2 practices. ● An area with sensory stimulation elements that Jack can use if he gets over stimulated. ○ Peer education provided by CTRS explaining why Jack has special accommodations and how his peers can sup port him. ● The ability to meet the coach before the first practice. The park and recreation department, Jack, and his Mom all worked together. The first practice was a little hard for Jack because of the new environment, but when he appeared to feel nervous, one of his friends from Pre-K was able to comfort him. The CTRS helped Jack to identify what was coming next using the transition board that his mom helped make. After three practices, Jack was comfortable with the routine and no longer needed the CTRS there as an extra support person. The park and recreation department now has a formal inclusion policy on their website, brochures and registration form. All staff are now being trained on the policies on inclusion practices for individuals with disabilities. Conclusion The purpose of parks and recreation providers is to improve the quality of life for all members of the community, as recreation pro viders, it is not only important that we are able to provide inclusive services when approached, but that we are sending the message of inclusion at every step of the process, starting with marketing materials and a formal inclusion policy. Some providers may say that no one has ever asked for inclusive programs, but is the root of the problem that they have never been offered? Transitioning from specialized services to inclusive can be intimidating for the agency, but imagine how intimidating it must be for the person and family to ask for these services without knowing where the agency stands. By using the provided checklist, providers can take some of the burden off the individual with the disability and promote an environment of inclusion and acceptance. References Abery, B. (2003). Social inclusion through recreation: What’s the connection? Impact, 16 (2), 2-3, 32-33. Anderson, L., & Heyne, L. (2000). A statewide needs assessment using focus groups: Perceived challenges and goals in providing inclusive recreation services in rural communities. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 18 (4), 17-37.

WINTER 2022 • Virginia AHPERD • 9

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