As for all students, participation in out-of-school time and expanded learning programs provides students with disabilities the opportunity to become a part of an inclusive environment where they receive extended academic support, partake in extracurricular activities such as sports and arts, develop meaningful relationships with students and adults they may not typically interact with during the school day, and gain greater self-awareness, self-confidence, and appropriate social and emotional skills.
Inclusion is the practice of teaching or including students with disabilities in the same space and programming as students who do not have disabilities. Practicing inclusion means treating students with disabilities as similarly to those without disabilities as possible, ensuring a welcoming and supportive environment for all students. In many situations, inclusion simply requires sensitivity to the needs of individual students –a mindset important to working with all students– rather than any major changes to the program structure or space.
To learn more about what you can do to run an inclusive afterschool program, see Including All Students: Frequently Asked Questions About Including Students with Disabilities in Afterschool and Summer Programs. This FAQ was developed with the help of the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, the New York State Disabilities Advocacy Association and Network and other experts on inclusion practices. Network for Youth Success would like to extend a big thank you to all those who contributed!
ACT for Youth provides a resource on assessing unconscious bias among youth work professionals and addresses how supervisors and directors can build cultural competence among program staff.