All children have a legal right to participate fully in OST programs. Being inclusive is also a beneficial practice for OST programs. Being willing and able to include all children, whatever their disability, helps organizations fully reach their goal of helping young people learn, grow and thrive. Providers can begin by reviewing the information in this booklet about their obligations under the law. A number of organizations can provide advice and support as program leaders address inclusion issues. (See pages 33-35 for a list of such organizations.)
It is recommended that OST programs take proactive steps to ensure that parents and children understand their rights to take part and feel welcome. The following list of best practices was developed in consultation with OST experts:
• Ensure that inclusion is fundamental to your business practices and identity.
• Print a statement about the program’s commitment to inclusion on all registration materials.
• Designate a staff person to serve as inclusion facilitator and provide a written job description and appropriate training.
• Implement a process for explaining to parents why access to confidential information may be needed, using limited release of information forms that are easily understood by parents and guardians.
• Develop a process for getting copies of confidential materials when needed.
• Have a process for staff to make individualized decisions about the accommodations a youth needs to participate safely and effectively. This process should include collaboration with parents, timelines and designated staff members who have the skills and responsibilities for making such individualized decisions.
• Utilize community partners who can provide technical assistance and support. “Using simple techniques to accommodate individuals with disabilities such as creating and sticking to a schedule, getting additional information from parents and giving clear, concise instructions benefit ALL participants in the out of school time programs.” – Jennene Lausier, Teen & Grant Recreation Coordinator, Howard County Recreation and Parks
• Ensure that staff have skills and knowledge to design accommodations and modifications including adapted materials, training and positive behavior supports, and can estimate the costs.
• For youth who have IEPs or Section 504 Plans, make sure staff understand and use the documents to plan supports.
• Have a process for informing parents and youth in writing about individualized decisions and advising them of their legal protections.
• Have staff evaluate their program based on principles of Universal Design for Learning, a set of principles for developing curriculum and materials in a flexible way so that all young people will have access. These principles can apply to materials, schedules, activities, expectations, rules and environments. (For more information about Universal Design for Learning, go to www.udlcenter.org.)