The Value of Incorporating Inclusive Sports in Schools: An Exploration of Unified Sport Experiences

in Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly

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Roxy Helliker O’Rourke Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Mental Health and Physical Activity Research Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

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Krystn Orr Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Mental Health and Physical Activity Research Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

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Rebecca Renwick Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

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F. Virginia Wright Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Bloorview Research Institute, East York, ON, Canada
Department of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

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James Noronha Special Olympics Ontario, Toronto, ON, Canada

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Kirsten Bobbie Special Olympics Ontario, Toronto, ON, Canada

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Kelly P. Arbour-Nicitopoulos Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Mental Health and Physical Activity Research Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Bloorview Research Institute, East York, ON, Canada

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School sports programs intentionally created for students with and without disabilities may increase social participation of students with intellectual disabilities (IDs). Special Olympics Unified Sports is one program where students with and without ID participate on one team. Guided by a critical realist paradigm, this study explored the perceptions of students with and without ID and coaches of in-school Unified Sports. Interviews were conducted with 21 youths (12 with ID) and 14 coaches. Thematic analysis resulted in four developed themes (identified is outdated language): Inclusion—Is it aweor a “they?” Roles and Responsibilities, Educational Context for Inclusion, and Buy-In. Findings suggest students with and without ID and coaches value the inclusive nature of Unified Sports. Future research should explore training for coaches on inclusive practices (e.g., language), and optimal methods for consistent training (e.g., use of training manuals) to foster the philosophy of inclusion within school sports.

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