2016 TASH Conference has ended
Each year, the TASH Conference strengthens the disability field by connecting attendees to innovative information and resources, facilitating connections between stakeholders within the disability movement, and helping attendees reignite their passion for an inclusive world. This year’s conference theme, “Gateway to Equity,” explores inclusive communities, schools, and workplaces that support people with disabilities, including those with complex support needs, in living a fair, just, and balanced life. Return to TASH website.
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Thursday, December 1 • 9:20am - 10:10am
Providing Full Inclusion: Enhancing Student Participation in Extracurricular Activities LIMITED

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Limited Capacity seats available

For many typical students, participation in extracurricular or afterschool activities provides rich and memorable experiences. Regrettable, relatively few students with severe disabilities participate in such activities, despite several benefits they provide: promotion of full inclusion and social acceptance and natural opportunities to practice IEP goals. The purpose of this presentation is two-fold. First, a synopsis of current research about this issue is presented. Second, a discussion about the barriers to such participation and ways to ameliorate the situation are presented. In particular, how such participation is influenced by gender, cultural diverse background, socio-economic status, and student support needs are addressed. 


  1. By the end of this session, participants will describe the extent to which students with severe disabilities participate in extracurricular activities, the barriers that present them from participating, and the kinds of activities that are supported. 

  1. By the end of this session, participants will describe the extent to which extracurricular activities are included in IEPs and what are the specific outcomes addressed. 

  2. By the end of this session, participants will explain how involvement in extracurricular activities can be promoted. 

  3. By the end of this session, participants will be able to determine how participated is affected by gender, diversity, socio-economic status, and support needs. 

    By the end of this session, participants will describe the factors that motivate parents to want their children involved in extracurricular activities. 

Research Background:

This presentation summarizes current knowledge about the participation of students in extracurricular activities and evidence-based practices to promote such involvement. 

Importance:  For many students, participation in extracurricular activities represents their most enjoyable school experience. Such activities provide opportunities to promote inclusion and social acceptance and practice IEP goals. Nevertheless, relatively few students participate in such activities. Participation in extracurricular activities is a potentially valuable and underused means to achieve full inclusion. 

Translating this content into improved outcomes: The purpose of this presentation is to inform TASH members about barriers that deny students opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, and to suggest ways in which participation can be facilitated and supported. Increased participation will potentially produce desired academic, social, and functional learning outcomes for participating students. 

Methodology: It is well acknowledged that students with severe disabilities continue to remain socially isolated, with limited opportunities to participate in socially integrated activities outside of the classroom. Although participation in extracurricular activities would appear to be practical and efficient way to ameliorate this situation—a natural and evidence-based practice that serves as a “Gateway to Equity”—it is an underused service.  The presentation will review and discuss a number of quantitative and qualitative studies about extracurricular activities conducted by the presenters. Recommendations to enhance participation will be presented First, Agran et al. (in press) surveyed a sample of special education teachers (n= 146) from a mix of rural, urban, and suburban communities across five states. Descriptive data were reported. A major finding of the investigation was that respondents had strong beliefs about the value of extracurricular activities, but felt it was not their responsibility to facilitate or support afterschool activities. Last, relatively few parents request that their children participate in extracurricular activities.  Pence and Dymond (2016a) surveyed 60 middle and junior high school special education teachers. Data from surveys were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS 21.0). Results indicated that teachers valued including students in school clubs and believed that students benefitted from engaging in club activities, yet they did not view this setting as a place to address curricula. Issues with supports, transportation, and planning were identified as barriers to participation.  In a second study by Pence and Dymond (2016b), a multiple case study design involving three high school students was used to explore the participation of students with severe disabilities (SD) in inclusive extracurricular school clubs, as well as their motivation for involvement. Preliminary findings suggested that focal students oftentimes participated differently than their peers, with limited preparation for their involvement. Peer members were also found to play an essential role in facilitating students’ ongoing engagement in club activities.  Thoma et al. (2016) interviewed 19 participants (9 teachers, 3 parents, and 7 students) across three states, asking them to share their opinions about extracurricular activities. Three members of the research team reviewed the transcripts, using an a priori coding method. The majority of interviewees valued extracurricular activities but identified a number of problems (e.g., parent lack of interest, lack of teacher interest, transportation, scheduling). Additionally, the findings of an ongoing survey being conducted by Agran and Dymond (2016; projected completion, October) will be presented. The study involves a stratified national sample of special educators i.e., teachers who serve students with severe disabilities in middle, junior high, and high schools. Both descriptive and statistical analyses are being employed. Among the questions asked are: What difference does participation make; Are activities and related skills being included in IEPs, and how are outcomes measured?; Is participation differentiated by gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, support needs, and classroom placement?; and what are the benefits of participation parents want their children to achieve? 


avatar for Martin Agran

Martin Agran

Professor, University of Wyoming
Dr. Martin Agran is a nationally recognized researcher in the area of special education. He is an Emeritus professor and former department head in the Department of Special Education at the University of Wyoming. Additionally, he served as a professor in the Special Education Departments... Read More →
avatar for Stacy Dymond

Stacy Dymond

Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Stacy Dymond is professor of special education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on curriculum issues related to educating secondary and transition-age students with severe intellectual disabilities in inclusive school and community settings... Read More →

Colleen Thoma

Department Chair, VCU

Thursday December 1, 2016 9:20am - 10:10am CST
Grand F&E 1820 Market Street, St. Louis, MO 63103