How To Engage Students Who Receive Special Education Accommodation to Ensure They Have Success in Classroom and Athletics

HowTo Engage Students Who Receive Special Education Accommodation toEnsure They Have Success in Classroom and Athletics



HowTo Engage Students Who Receive Special Education Accommodation toEnsure They Have Success in Classroom and Athletics

Creatingequal learning opportunities for special needs students is criticalto their success in education and athletics. Special educationaccommodates students with behavioral and mental challenges thathinder them from participating effectively in either class orathletic activities. Therefore, teachers have to develop measures toencourage the participation of special needs students in theclassroom and field so that they achieve a holistic development.Cooper (2014) explains that classroom and athletics engagement is anactive process of responding positively to tasks by exhibiting afocused behavior, emotion, and cognition reaction. Duncan, Posny, &ampMusgrove (2011) assert that the Individual with DisabilitiesEducation Act (IDEA) requires all schools to provide playing andlearning equipment to ensure the creation of the least restrictiveenvironment for learning and athletics of students with specialneeds. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines forAmericans, children need a minimum of 60 minutes of physicalactivities in aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengtheningexercises three times daily (Duncan et al., 2011). Therefore, toensure the health of students with special needs, every school isexpected to come up with appropriate varieties of sport, exercise,and recreational activities that engage all students. Exposure tophysical activities enhances the motor skills, which increases theengagement level of students. The research explores the need forbetter performance of students with special needs in their educationand athletics. The focuses on the role of teachers in creatingengaging classroom and physical education environment to ensure thesuccess of special needs students.


FactorsAssociated with Student Engagement

Teachersmust be willing to develop individualized strategies to overcome riskfactors associated with the mental and physical handicaps in specialeducation school. The risk factors include poor temperament,cognitive problems, learning disabilities, poverty, and mentalincapacities that usually diminish the effects of the common learningintervention strategies. Taylor &amp Parsons (2011) found out in astudy that 66% of students are already disengaged, and the biggestchallenge for teachers is to re-engage them.

Directparticipation of students with special needs is the best way to knowif they are engaged in the classroom and field activities. Cooper(2014) conducted a mixed-methods study of engagement and found outthat students’ interest to learn is influenced by the expectedlevel of enjoyment and interest to set tasks. Engagement in thisstudy was measured by using the sense of belonging and schoolattendance. Out of 275,000 students who participated in the surveyof student engagement since 2006 to 2009, 65% were bored in schoolabout once a day, 16% were bored in all the classes, while 36% wentto school daily because they liked it. Form this, three types ofengaging teaching practices were suggested by students during theanalysis, they include connective instruction, lively teaching andacademic rigor. It was established that, connective instructionsuggests engagement seven times more than academic rigor or livelyteaching.

Willms(2003) states that engagement is the level to which students withspecial needs identify with the schooling outcomes associated withacademic and athletic schools activities.

Highsense of belonging leads to an average to top performance in bothacademics and athletics. The feeling of belonging for specialeducation students could increase by using divergent programs thatenhance student-student and student-teacher relations to ensure theyhave higher academic and athletics expectations. Willms (2003)analyzes literature on student engagement in school environment andreveals that an engaging environment influences the sense ofbelonging, which determines their level of participation in bothathletics and classroom activities. For example, Lee and Smith (1993)established modest effects of school restructuring such as teamteaching, heterogeneous grouping, and minimizing the extent t whichschools are structured by subject area department on students’engagement level. Further, Finn and Voelkl (1993) established thatschool attendance was less consistent and vulnerable students weremore disengaged in school where rules were unfairly engaged. Specialneeds students develop a sense of belonging by engaging in goodrelations with their teachers and other students during play andclassroom activities.

Onthe contrary, students who feel alienated from the school academicsand athletics programs lack attachment with their peers, teachers,and hate the school environment. Willms (2003) asserts that studentsthat are exposed to a consistent negative feeling of inadequacy areleast likely to secure any positive reinforcing behavior in both theclassroom and during co-curriculum activities, which in effecthinders their participation and engagement. Willms constructed twoindicators of student engagement in school. Students were regarded tohave a low sense of belonging if they hit below 3.0 on the senses ofbelonging scale. Such students responded ‘disagree’ or ‘stronglydisagree’ more often than they did for ‘agree’ or ‘stronglyagree’ on the six measure items administered in the scale. Theperformance of students who identify positively with their teachersand peers is much higher since their engagement is higher compared toalienated special needs learners.

ActivitiesThat Improve Student Engagement

Cooper(2014) reviews primary sources and claims that the application of theconnective instruction as a teaching practice improves the level ofstudent engagement since it motivates them to experience meaningfulrelationships at school. The connective instruction requires teachersto consider the diverse needs of students through their particularinterests, points of view, and personalities, to create anindividualized experience.

Challengesof Student Athletes

Christopher(2008) is concerned with whether student athletes are unique. In hisstudy he accessed the rate of engagement of student athletes. Hefound out that student athletes spend significant time in sports andfind it difficult to balance between academics and athletics. Thestudents are usually alienated or sidelined as unable to performacademically. In fact, participation in sporting activities is seenas a sign of failure in academics. However, student athletes are notunique and the negative stereotype associated with them is the onethat affects their academic performance.

Simons,Bosworth, Fujita &amp Jensen, (2007) assert that there is actuallystigma associated with athlete students. In their study whichinvolved 538 collegiate athletes, the participants were asked todescribe how they were perceived and treated by non-athlete studentsand faculty. 33 percent of participants said that they were viewednegatively by faculty and 59.1% by other students with only 15%reporting positive perceptions. When asking for accommodation forathletics, 61.5% said that they were denied or given a hard time.Besides, an incredible 62.1% reported to have received negativecomments from the faculty, with 370 athletic students reportingspecific comments made on them by the faculty or non athleticstudents. For example one participant in the study pointed that whentheir professor gives out an easy assignment, he insists that it isso cheap that athlete students can manage. The author suggests thatto improve the academic performance of student athletes, teachers,parents and peers should be ready to support them. They have pressureto perform both in class to achieve academically as well as in thefield to meet expectations of their coaches whose livelihood solelydepends on the success of these students in the field.

Specialneeds students athletes also have challenges that can significantlyreduce their performance or participation in class. Comeaux &ampHarrison (2011) in their study concerning the success for Division Istudent athletes developed a theoretical model to comprehend andexplain the cumulative characteristics and processes of thesestudents. In their work, they found that, students who engage insports activities within the school tend to have negative attitudetowards teachers and other peers and may concentrate more onathletics at the expense of class work. Teachers’ failure tounderstand this may create a conflict that may even push the studentto drop out of school. Thus, there is need for a special needsteacher to be able to identify all the necessary support that isneeded to enhance the performance of such students in classroom.Duncan,Posny, &amp Musgrove (2011) recommend that the use of differentiatedinstructional design strategies ensure engagement of students bycreating specialist athletics programs that apply the principles ofuniversal design for learning (UDL). UDL is an evidence basedframework that guides teachers in planning learning to meet thevarying and diverse needs of all students. Students whose engagementin a classroom is inhibited by cognitive and speech challenges needprofessionals like speech language pathologists to aid them to remainanchored to the school system. UDL advocated for inclusive teachingstyles that require differentiation of curriculum content based onthe individual special needs of the students to increase theirparticipation and engagement. Management of behavior in the classroomis much easier than the field where complex interactions take placeas argued by Duncan, Posny, &amp Musgrove (2011). Basically, this isachieved by identifying and reducing obstacles to learning henceincrease flexibility and effectiveness of the learning environmentfor every student. Management of athletics needs a coach with strongbehavior management skills to counter inconsistent behavior exhibitedby students with special needs. While typical students play by therules as team members, students with special needs may not conform tostandards of athletic activities.

StudentMotivation and Engagement

Theengagement of special needs students is affected by their individualmotivation to learn. Even though most motivation comes from theindividual student, teachers play an important role in engagingstudents through assignments that are given to them by teachers(Brewster&amp Fager, 2000).Brown &amp Walberg (1993) found out that motivation influences theengagement of students to learn both in the classroom and duringextra-curricular activities since it means that an individual isfully engaged to succeed in all school activities. Brewster&amp Fager (2000) points out in an analysis of primary sources that,students’ motivation can enhance students’ engagement.Equally, Weiser (2014) claims, that students with learningdisabilities are ready to learn and acquire skills in a self-directedmanner if engaged by curriculum content. Engagement requires teachersto work to diminish the sense of inadequacy that is associated withthe student with learning disabilities to help them to developintrinsic motivation.

Weiser(2014) explains that teachers can increase special student’sengagement by assessing their feedback levels in classroom andathletics. Feedback concerning the processing of the task givesinformation on the consistency of a student in understanding anacademic or athletic assignment. A teacher can use the data to informthe student about the quality of the work. Feedback about student’sself-regulation is intended to keep track of the process of learningand completion of class or athletic tasks according to instruction.

Weiser(2014) reveals that self-regulation in classroom and athleticsmeasures the self-monitoring capacities of each student to engage inappropriate behaviors that encourage performance. Self-regulationinfluences the engagement of a special needs student to tackleclassroom and field activities Ames (1992) examined the relationshipbetween classroom learning environment and achievement. Classroomsetting can which include, sitting arrangement, display of teachingmaterials as well as general appearance of a classroom determine thelevel of motivation in a student to achieve at different levels. Thisis in line with the motivation theory. As such, establishing task,evaluation and acknowledgement and authority aspects of classroomsare some of the examples of structures which teachers can emphasizeto influence orientation of children towards various achievements.Lastly, feedback on self as a person is critical in revealing theweaknesses and strengths of a student with special needs. Feedback onthe memory, challenges, and advancement of a student is essential ininforming them about their capacities.

Roleof Community in Student Engagement

Huml,Svensson, &amp Hancock (2014) claim that students’ commitment totheir communities is affected by their engagement with the communityduring early development years. Encouraging engagement with localcommunities helps students with special needs to embrace tolerance asthey identify with them. Contrastingly, students that fail to engagein community service were limited to their cognitive development andlacked social skills (Huml, Svensson, &amp Hancock, 2014).Communication skills are gained as students interact with theircommunity members through co-curricular and social activities thatreinforce their identity. Consequently, children with special needsalso participate or become part of a school community throughinteraction with peers. It is important that teachers create anenvironment where all children interact.

Inclusionof Students with Special Needs

Boutot(2007) carried out a study to determine how acceptance of studentswith autism spectrum disorder (ASD) influences their engagement. Hefound out that, for students with ASD to find acceptance and tocreate friendships, like those of normal peers, they have to bepresented with an opportunity to do so. The author suggests thatappropriate planning and support be provided to ensure that inclusiveclassrooms provide opportunities for children with ASD, like they dofor ordinary children. It is therefore the role of teachers togetherwith parents to create inclusive classrooms that enhance acceptanceand friendship among students regardless of their physical or mentalabilities. This will increase participation and enhance engagement inschool activities both in class and outdoor. This idea is supportedby Salend&amp Duhaney (1999) who look at the importance of inclusion ofstudents with and without disabilities in class and athleticactivities. The authors point out that, when students are included bytheir peers and educators in the various activities, it stands toenhance the confidence of the students as they feel accepted. This inturn enhances their achievement both academically and in sports.


Inconclusion, students’ engagement is important in determining theirsuccess in academics and athletics. Students with special needs areparticularly vulnerable and require motivation to be able toparticipate actively in class and in athletics. Teachers play asignificant role in enhancing student engagement.


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