Exploring sport opportunities for young athletes with different abilities
The aim of the study is to develop a new terminology from the negative term of “disability” and to try and hava an inclusive system during physical activities in schools. In addition is tries to highlight the importance of having more inclusive sport opportunities for everyone and to improve the self-esteem of people with different abilities.
In Malta few athletes with different abilities have the opportunity to be included into sport activities. In schools there is not much time allocated for persons with disability both during physical education lessons and also during break time. As the athlete with different abilities starts thinking seriously of sport activities he encounters a lot of mishaps primarily the over-protection from parents and organisers. In addition he also faces the disadvantage of the lack of sport opportunities for him. This reason led the researcher to investigate what is really going on, both during childhood when it comes to school activities i.e. physical education lessons, and at later later stage during adolescence and adulthood when it comes to sport opportunities offered by society.
This study is made up of five chapters which start from the history and defenition of disability and ends up with the guidelines to a way forward.
The aims of the study are:
- To try and transit from a terminology that might sound negative “disability” to a better word “Different abilities”
- To try and have an inclusive system during physical education in both primary and secondary schools
- To have more sport opportunities which include everyone both for leisure and also on a professional level
- To strengthen the self-esteem of persons with different abilities
The study is made up of five chapters. Chapter 2 tackles the history of disability and sports. An overview of the study background and key terms used within the study investigation are also provided.
Chapter 2 gives an overview of some basic terms and general knowledge related to disability and sports which give a better understanding of the aims of the study. An evaulation and illustrations from experts regarding sport and disability sectors also follow.
Chapter 3 investigates the approach taken and the processes involved in achieving the dissertation objectives. Details of the sources used as well as a description of the method used to collect the primary and secondary research data are also provided.
The study concludes with an evaluation of the achieved results in the previous section. The conclusions derived state the opportunities available and what can be really done to enhance further inclusion into sport for persons with different abilities, compared to the literature review findings. A study critique concludes the dissertation.
History of disability
People with different abilities better known in society as people with a disability have always been in existence. For many different reasons they have become more present in the twenty first century than before.
About ten percent of the population is considered to have different abilities and the parliament directives of the late twentieth century improved the accessibility and availability of services and facilities for this group which is considered to be the largest minority group in society. This resulted in more individuals with different abilities going along more easily with their daily living. These people are being more recognized in society even in sport. Athletes with different abilities have been participating since at least the last hundred years. However it has only been from recent times that these athletes started receiving the appreciation that they merit and have also been recognized as athletes.
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The roots of the link between sport and disability to disability sport started primarily during the 20th century and developed into a new movement. This movement has developed up to the point so as to include the complexity of its members and also restructuring of its aims and visibility. Athletic opportunities have expanded so as to have individual accomplishments of athletes with different abilities. These overlooked and unseen sportspersons are gaining increased recognition firstly as athletes and above all as humans with different abilities.
Exceptional performances by top athletes with different abilities are purely seconds or tenths of seconds behind those of top able-bodied athletes, in sport disciplines like downhill skiing and swimming. Athletes with bi-lateral leg amputations finished a hundred metre race in 10.85 seconds and others with less severe impairments finished in even less time. A top male wheelchair athlete finishedd a marathon at an average of 3.5 minutes per mile and managed to complete marathons in almost ninety minutes or less, while a female wheelchair athlete did the same marathon in an hour and forty nine minutes.
1.2 Definition of Disability
The terms functioning and disability must be defined clearly in order to understand the interrelationship between functioning and disability. The term “functioning” describes the functions and structures of the body. It helps to grasp an individual’s interaction with a health condition and the environmental and personal contexts. Disability is viewed as the result of the interaction between individual functioning and the environment when linked with a health condition. The level of difficulty is highly dependent on the degree of functional autonomy and independence of persons living with disabilities, be they sensory, physical or mental. Accordingly, functionality is defined as the ability to perform those activities necessary to achieve well-being through interaction between the biological, the psychological (cognitive and affective) and the social spheres (Sanhueza Parra, 2005), and whose loss entails the risk of disability and dependence. Care thus avoids what Morris (2001) terms the social construct of dependence, which negates the individual. For people with disabilities, respecting their right to care gives them access to assistance from others and to essential technical aids, and a physical and social environment that is adapted to their particular impairment.
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Following the environmental approach taken by WHO, functional autonomy may therefore be defined as the ability to perform functions related to daily life, such as those activities necessary to achieve well-being through appropriate interaction between the biological, the psychological (cognitive and affective) and the social. This enables the individual to live in the community with little or no help from others, albeit with assistive technology. (United Nations, 2012 pg 183)
… Very often, lay and, sometimes, professional people do not seem to make a distinction between such terms as Impairments, Dis-abilities, Handicaps. These are often taken to mean one and the same thing. But this is wrong. The World Health Organisation, in 1980, published a manual titled International Clasification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps, whereby, three distinct and independent were proposed, each relating to a different plane experience.
… Disability is “any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being”. It represents objectification of an impairment and, as such, reflects disturbance at the level of the person.
… Disability is concerned with abilities in the form of activities and behaviour a person`s body is expected to carry out as essential components of every day life, such as represented by tasks, skills, and behaviour. Disability signifies a departure from the normal in so far as the performance of the individual is concerned as opposed to that of the organ or mechanism. ( Troisi, 1992 pg 3 & 4)
CHAPTER THREE: LITERATURE REVIEW
Young people are often seen as challenges to most people in society. This is exactly what the article “Positive Youth Development through Sport” edited by Nicholas L. Holt declares.
According to Holt speaking from the perspective of Positive Youth Development (PYD), argues that young people are frequently pointed out as problems in society waiting to be solved. However young people are understood to embody potential, awaiting development.
Holt points out that sport itself provides a developmental context that has been associated with PYD, but sport on its own does not lead to PYD. In fact he points out that in some environments there are instances when negative outcomes arise from sport participation. Thus it is the manner in which sport is structured and delivered to children that influences their development.
Nicholas Holt quotes Larson and expresses that, organized activities can provide youth with opportunities to experience positive development. He states that sport is the most popular organized activity into which youth engage (Larson and Verma 1999).
Both theory and research point out the importance of structural out-of-school-time (OST) activities as important assets in the positive development of youth (Mahoney et al. 2005).
Holt in his article says that youth participation in organized sports has been linked to indicators of adolescent’s physical, social, psychological, and achievement related behaviour and development. Researchers (Barber et al. 2001: Eccles et al. 2003) found that, in comparison to non-participants, youth who participate in sport enjoyed attending school more, received more frequent educational and occupational support, had higher academic performance, longer periods of tertiary education by age 25, and attained a job at age 24 that offered autonomy and a promising future. Although there where diverse research findings regarding the relationsip of sport participation and alcohol use, some found a relationship between sport participation and a lower level of alcohol use (Peretti-Watel et al 2003). Other findings indicated a positive relationship between sport participation and alcohol use. Sport participation has also been consistently linked to a lower use of cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine, and ‘other drugs’ (Page et al 1998). Furthermore it was also related to lower rates of depression and lower incidence of suicidal behaviour.
Researchers and youth advocates have proposed important benefits of sports involvement. However, to date, little research has accounted for the dynamic ways in which youth spend their free time.
A book entitled No one`s perfect, tells the story of a Japanese Boy who despite being born without arms and limbs he managed to do it his way into sport.
This Japanese little boy, named Ototake, came home from school one day and told his parents he had signed up to play basketball. In contrary to other parents who would be delighted to such a request, they where shocked. Oto was born with no arms and no legs. Despite his disability, this extraordinary young man has always proven a hard-worker, rich in versatility and with an upbeat approach to life. This positivity served him as valuable as limbs. No One’s Perfect is his true account of how he slam-dunked one challenge after another, including basketball.
Ototake says that thanks to having short arms and legs plus a wheelchair, he was a winner in the popularity department. He found himself always the centre of a circle of friends. With time the typical willfulness of an only child began to kick in. Ototake maintains that at first break time, when everyone would be playing tag in the playground, or physical education lessons, were dead boring for him since with his power wheelchair he could not keep up with his friends. Thus he usually yelled for them to come and play with him: “If you want to play in the sandbox, follow me!” Strangely enough, the kids who had been happily chasing one another a short while before would all troop after the wheelchair to the sandbox.
Ototake highlights that looking back to school days, most people with disabilities admit that recess was the worst part of their day. This is that particular time when ordinary children, unless they are real bookworms, would enjoy. The main reason is that for disabled kids the forty five to fifty minutes of a class period pass quickly enough while they sit quietly in their seat, but during breaks, when they can`t join in the fun their classmates, they feel greater sense of isolation so they can`t wait for recess to be over.
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