International Day of People with Disabilities 2022
International Day of People with Disabilities 2022
International Day of People with Disabilities is celebrated annually on 3rd December. In the words of the United Nations, “disability inclusion is an essential condition to upholding human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security. It is also central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind. The commitment to realizing the rights of persons with disabilities is not only a matter of justice; it is an investment in a common future”.
At the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science (SPHPSS), we haves an extensive background in researching and supporting people with disabilities. Giampiero Tarantino, under the guidance of Dr Ross Neville, recently completed his PhD at the School and published his research into the inclusion of children with special educational needs and disabilities in physical education in Educational Research Review, the leading educational journal in Europe. Giampiero explains the motivation behind and the results of his research below.
"...it is crucial that everyone involved in working with kids with disabilities supports and promotes an inclusive environment..."
“Since I started my professional career as a physical education teacher, I have always committed to providing physical activity to students, regardless of their level of ability. However, I soon realised that many factors were influencing my ability to provide high-quality physical education classes. Therefore, I decided to commit to a PhD journey and research the level of inclusion of children with special educational needs and disabilities in physical education classes.
As a multidisciplinary setting, the SPHPSS provided the best environment for conducting my research. During my years within the School, I had the privilege to work closely with well-established researchers who supported my research throughout the journey. The SPHPSS also gave me the opportunity and the honour to be part of the CHAS Disability Working Group, which supported students and staff with disabilities within the College of Health and Agricultural Sciences.
The supportive environment that the SPHPSS provided was crucial for conducting my first scientific work, which resulted in a manuscript published in one of the leading journals for educational research. This article investigated the factors associated with physical education teachers’ attitudes towards the inclusion of children with disabilities and special educational needs. As research has shown that teachers’ inclusive attitudes toward physical education are associated with positive student outcomes, my article provided robust evidence regarding the factors acknowledged by teachers as the most important in influencing their inclusive attitudes. For example, teachers voiced that, despite having generally favourable attitudes towards inclusion, they lacked knowledge and preparation during their formal training.
In summary, my article reviewed all the scientific evidence published in the last five decades in the field of physical education teachers’ attitudes and found that:
- Teachers would benefit from more formal training related to inclusive practice within physical education classes.
- Experience in working with students with disabilities and special educational needs is positively associated with more favourable attitudes.
- The type and degree of disability are still a major concern among teachers (for example, teachers found it more challenging working with children with emotional and behavioural disorders rather than learning or physical disabilities).
- Teachers would benefit from the collaboration and support of other teachers, students without disabilities, and parents of children with disabilities.
The findings from this article revealed that, despite teachers having positive and favourable attitudes toward inclusion, there are environment-related factors that can negatively influence their attitudes and the inclusion of children with disabilities and special educational needs within physical education classes, and more generally, school. In this regard, my article shows that the provision of extensive training opportunities for pre-service teachers should be considered a priority among teacher educators, and higher institutions should offer more inclusive-related trainings to pre-service teachers. Furthermore, my work revealed that it is crucial that everyone involved in working with kids with disabilities supports and promotes an inclusive environment, regardless of the setting. My findings align very well with previous research, which has shown that exposure to different types of disabilities and special needs can foster an inclusive environment and promote a valuable experience for children with and without disabilities.
Delivering high-quality physical education is not only associated with physical and mental benefits for children and adolescents with and without disabilities, but it can offer a microcosm of socio-emotional interactions and relationships that can strengthen students’ (with and without disabilities) interpersonal and social skills. Therefore, school staff, parents, and coaches should aim to cooperate and facilitate the inclusion and active participation of children with disabilities and special educational needs in every setting (e.g., physical education classes, team sports, leisure and social activities, etc.)”.
Giampiero’s article in Educational Research Review can be found here.