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IEPs and Extracurricular Activities

Article: Participation of Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Extracurricular Activities: Does Inclusion End at 3:00? By Agran and others. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 2017, 52, 3-12.

Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities are more likely to be isolated from the community than those without. One way to address this is participation in extracurricular (school-based) activities. Despite this, very few kids on IEPs have extracurricular activity support as part of their IEP, despite it being their Constitutional Right. This study wanted to look at why now, and did a survey of teachers and special ed directors. Special ed directors agreed that this was an important thing, but really not their job to make sure it happened (participation in extracurriculars).

Editorial: The results are not surprising. "Not my job," is quite possibly the most common message I hear from Special Education. I coach parents who are initiating or managing the IEP process to be ready for the "not my job" response. Most parents choose to hire lawyers who politely disagree, and then the child gets their Constitutional right fulfilled. But the plight and attitude of the Special Educator is not the focus this time. My focus instead is the opening statement of the article that, "The purpose and value of inclusive education has been well extolled by researchers."

This has not been my experience. Inclusion for ASD individuals (those with and without an IEP) has been problematic, at best. Considering there's money involved (it's usually cheaper in the short term to use inclusion than specialized programming), I think anyone's opinion on this is dubious. I will admit, however, that I have not reviewed the literature on this issue, and perhaps I will. I am always interested in interventions that are "well extolled by researchers", regardless whether the conclusions match my opinion or not.

The other thing to consider is that inclusion does match the values of some families. Even if inclusion does not lead to better outcomes, like academic success, executive functioning and social skill training, more friends, better savvy with managing the academic environment (i.e., self-advocacy), it certainly looks better to be taking "regular" classes than "special" classes. In this society, normal is not only good, it's a virtue. I have seen many people sacrifice considerable opportunities for the sake of appearing normal.

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