The Process of Inclusion
The process of inclusion, hopefully, begins with open communication, which is critical to maintain throughout the process. At the time of registration, individuals are asked to request accommodations on the registration form. The inclusion coordinator contacts the participant and/or family through an initial phone call and hopes to develop a level of trust. During the phone call, the program participant's behaviors and disability needs are discussed. A participant profile is then sent to gather more detailed information, which can include fears, likes, dislikes, and goals for participation. In addition, the coordinator gathers information from therapists, teachers, social workers, and other professionals, when and if necessary.
The next step is to talk with program instructors and other staff to determine their needs. Support staff is hired when necessary and at times with specific experience (i.e., autism). After this process, the participant or family member is re-contacted to ensure all needs are discussed and accommodations are in place prior to participation. Communication between the coordinator, program staff, support staff, and participant or family member continues through program completion.
The accommodations are individualized, based on each person's needs. Common methods of accommodation are:
- Changing staff to participant ratio. The ideal ratio depends upon each individual's needs. Some may need one-on-one support, whereas other participants may work well in small groups. Determining the proper ratio may take some effort on the part of the staff, the inclusion coordinator, the participant and the participant's family.
- Modifying activities/equipment (i.e., modify rules, choose a smaller ball or bigger goal rather than the standard equipment used for a specific activity).
- Arranging for participant to meet staff prior to the start of the program to establish rapport and allow the individual to become comfortable with the staff and the activity before others begin participating.
- Observing participant at school or work to understand personality and behaviors.
- Providing specific staff training (such as disability awareness, first aid, behavior modification techniques, etc.).
- Monitoring participation and enjoyment to ensure accommodations are effective.
The participating departments of MPIR do not provide personal services, such as toileting or feeding assistance, or invasive services, such as catheterization or G-tube feeding. However, it is crucial to work with the individual needing these services to enable participation. MPIR encourages individuals to bring their own attendants to provide these services while participating in the program.
Generally, the support person and the participant meet before the start of the program at a neutral location, most often the program site. This provides the opportunity for identification, trust building, and discussing further needs with participants and their families.
|Children playing on a basketball court.|
There is no limit to the programs in which individuals can participate. With proper training, patience, flexibility, and good humor, the coordinator, support staff, and program staff can make any program the appropriate fit. Teamwork and communication are necessary and help uphold the philosophy of allowing everyone in the community to participate in, benefit from and enjoy the parks and recreation programs and facilities. The right formula for inclusion can make a difference.