Review by Melanie Tait
A Teacher's Guide to Including Students with Disabilities in General Physical Education (Third Edition) by Martin Block and Inclusion in Physical Education: Fitness, Motor and Social Skills for Students of All Abilities by Pattie Rouse are books written to support the inclusion of students with disabilities in physical education classes. Both books are intended to help teachers to plan, teach and assess physical education programming so that all students, with or without disabilities, are able to participate in meaningful physical activity together. The books are also intended to help teachers become more at ease with teaching in an inclusive way and to increase their awareness and understanding of the physical education learning needs of students with disabilities.
As explained by Block in the first chapter of his book, students with disabilities have traditionally been viewed as fundamentally different from students without disabilities. This belief has led to serious exclusionary practices and beliefs: that the instructional needs of students vary from student to student; that providing a dual system is inefficient because of duplication of services; and that a dual system fosters inappropriate attitudes. However, the research-based benefits for students with and without disabilities and their teachers cited by both Block and Rouse far outweigh any perceived negative impact of inclusionary practices in the physical education program. Potential benefits include improved social skills, higher levels of motivation, greater access to school activities and the potential for developing friendships with students without disabilities. The attitudes of students without disabilities towards peers with disabilities improve, as do their perception and understanding of individual differences. Special education teachers gain understanding of how to work with students without disabilities and their expectations for their own students tend to rise. Rouse emphasizes that awareness and knowledge are key to developing positive attitudes that support inclusion. Block sums it up by saying that everyone learns to face individuals with disabilities with greater personal knowledge and optimism and less prejudice.
Inclusion and physical education are defined in slightly different terms by the two authors; both authors emphasize the importance of physical education for all students as the means to promote physical, social and emotional health. They both embrace an inclusive approach, citing examples from research that support this point of view. Block and Rouse encourage collaborative approaches to planning, teaching and assessing the inclusive physical education program, adding such additional supports as educational assistants, occupational and physical therapists, parent volunteers and trained peer tutors. They also provide templates to support collaborative planning, including observation tools, checklists, minutes records, goal-setting forms, parent volunteer interest sheets and a wide variety of lesson and unit planning examples, behavioural plans, safety plans and assessment tools. The tools and worksheets are carefully outlined with examples and explanations.
Each of these books contains numerous practical checklists, planning tools and other templates that teachers and schools could use to support inclusion in physical education classes. While both books are set in the American context with references to U.S. laws, regulations, policies and physical education standards and expectations – and to American advocacy groups and associations – their Canadian counterparts can easily be found on Ministry of Education Web sites, the Physical Health and Education Canada Web site (http://www.phecanada.ca/), and the Web site of an excellent Ontario organization, the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA http://www.ophea.net/).
There are many suggestions in these two books for strategies to differentiate physical education programs so that all students can participate in the same activities at the same time. In many cases, Block organizes suggestions for teachers by sport or activity, like the section called "Accommodations to Team and Individual Sports for Students with Disabilities," in which he makes suggestions for students with different kinds of disabilities for team and individual sports. Looking at volleyball, for example, he suggests using a larger, smaller or lighter ball, or varying the distance from the net requirements or the height of the net.
Rouse, on the other hand, has organized chapters around ideas for working with students with specific disabilities, like the chapter "Including Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder," in which she provides an introduction and background information on the autism spectrum. She also includes numerous suggestions for working with students, such as emphasizing social interaction, encouraging staying on task, adapting communication, allowing extra response time and using behaviour contracts. Many of the suggestions made by both authors are excellent examples of universal design (although neither author uses this term), because while meeting the needs of students with disabilities, they facilitate play for all students.
These books contain excellent concrete suggestions and useful tools and templates for implementing an inclusive physical education program. Although they are organized in different ways, each contains valuable information, strategies and tools for teachers. Ideally, teachers could use these complementary books together to improve and enrich their physical education programs while increasing their own confidence and expanding their teaching strategies.
A Teacher's Guide to Including Students with Disabilities in General Physical Education (Third Edition)By Martin E. BlockPaul H. Brookes Publishing, Baltimore, Maryland, 2007345 pages, Trade paper, $54.95
Inclusion in Physical Education: Fitness, Motor and Social Skills for Students of All AbilitiesBy Pattie RouseHuman Kinetics, Windsor, Ontario, 2009Website: www.HumanKinetics.com150 pages, Trade paper, $23.95
Melanie Tait is an educational consultant, researcher, curriculum writer and facilitator. She is currently the project manager for a provincially funded project to create PD and training modules and resources to support the implementation of the Accepting Schools Act, with a particular focus on LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was project coordinator for the TeachAble project, whose mandate included creating comprehensive professional development and curriculum materials on accessibility awareness for teachers, staff and students in the province.
Melanie also teaches part-time in the faculties of education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University of Toronto) and York University, and facilitates trustee training workshops and resource development for Ontario Education Services Corporation's (OESC) Centre for Governance Excellence.