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Ensuring every child has the right to play – The case for inclusive physical education

December 23, 2017

Starting January 2018, the Paralympic events calendar for the next year is an action packed one. January alone has 13 events across the world ranging from ice hockey to wheelchair tennis. Closer home, we have the much awaited encounter between old rivals India and Pakistan in the World Blind Cricket Cup. As always, the world will listen and watch in awe as people with apparently crippling physical challenges raise the bar higher and higher.

Sport for all - The case for Adaptive Physical Education

All of which should make us wonder why when it comes to the school level, we exclude children with disabilities from day to day sports. The Right To Education Act guarantees the right to play to every child, according to their capabilities and needs. The reality is that when it comes to looking at their physical education needs in a constructive manner, we have nothing. The idea of an Adapted Physical Education, APE, is mostly missing.

This is what Shaloo Sharma and Sunil Bhatt are hoping to change. An experienced educator with around 20 years of experience, most of it dedicated to special needs, she is the founder-director of Evoluer, which is offering a first-ever course in APE with the Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education in Gwalior.

Sunil Bhatt has over ten years of experience working across mainstream and special schools and is the force behind this movement to push Adaptive PE.

"The government is already addressing the 'right to play' for every child", says Sharma. "The role of PE in acquiring the pre-requisites for learning daily life skills and for a holistic growth is vital. This is especially so for the disabled and we need to make PE accessible to them."

7-day certification course in Adapted PE in Gwalior from 2 January 2018

At the moment, there are only a handful of organisations and professionals meeting this need, something Evoluer aims to change that. The course is being offered to students at the undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate levels, physical educators, physical and occupational therapists, and other related professionals from the field of special needs. The seven-day course begins on 2 January and costs Rs 15,000.

Among the key facilitators is Dr Rebecca Lytle, Professor, Department of Kinesiology, California State University, where she teaches courses in APE and autism.

"All of us will be disabled at some point in our lives most likely. How we treat, support, include, and interact with those around us is a reflection of the care and compassion of a society", says Dr Lytle.

"Effective inclusion increases the expectations of those with disabilities and improves learning outcomes. Students without disabilities learn acceptance, compassion, and effective inclusion has shown to support the learning of the able-bodied children just the same. " - Dr Rebecca Lytle, Expert, APE

Is a country like India, however, where the barriers faced by people with disabilities are so many, would this approach work?

"If you put a child in a wheelchair in a soccer game in the middle of a field they would certainly be at a huge disadvantage", says Dr Lytle. "However, if you put 10 able-body students in wheelchair and had them play team handball with the student who uses the wheelchair every day, now the student who uses a wheelchair every day might be the star of the team. Context is everything."

Its these thoughts and ideas that the Evoluer course hopes to trigger over the 7-day course.

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1st Evoluer workshop sets the agenda for inclusive physical education

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