skip to content

Definition of Inclusion  

"All individuals can participate in physical activities that enable them to be motorically, cognitively, and affectively successful within a community that embraces diversity"

Picture of multiple handsInclusion is a philosophy that states all individuals, regardless of ability, should participate within the same environment with necessary support and individualized attention.  Inclusion is more than simply placing individuals together, itís a belief that all individuals belong and are valued (Kasser & Lytle, 2005).

Inclusion in schools and Adapted Physical Education

  • There is a need for proper planning, preparation and support

  • Teachers need provide an appropriate education for everyone at varying levels

How to include children with Disabilities into the class 

The Lieberman and Houston-Wilson (2002) model demonstrates options that allow students to move from a totally inclusive environment to a segregated environment for including students with disabilities.  This gives teachers options to have their students move from one environment to another based on their unique needs.

The Lieberman and Houston-Wilson Model of Continuum of Supports and Placements:

  • Inclusion Options

    • Full inclusion with no adaptations or support

    • Full inclusion with curriculum adaptations

    • Full inclusion with trained peer tutors

    • Full inclusion with teacher assistants

    • Full inclusion with interpreter

  • Part-time Segregated Placement Options

    • Split placement without support

    • Split placement with support

  • Community-Based Options

    • Part-time (community and school based activities)

    • Full-time

  • Full-time Segregated Placement Options within a regular school district

    • Small group

    • One-to-one

  • Segregated Placement Options

    • Day school for specific disabilities

    • Residential school for specific disabilities

    • Home schooling

    • Hospital setting


What is Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)?

IDEA defines Least Restrictive Environment as "to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily" (Sec. 612 (a)[5]).

Every student with a disability should be given the opportunity to start out in a general education classroom and if that environment does not allow for success and a more restrictive environment is deemed appropriate, then that facilitators and educators must give good reason as to why the LRE is not working and it should be a main topic of discussion in the IEP meeting (Block, 1999). 

LRE supports the studentís right to be in the general education classroom unless assessment data indicate that prescribed goals cannot be met in that setting, with support services.  In regards to physical education a student might be assigned to in either one of these instructional setting from least restrictive to most restrictive environment.

  1. General physical education with no support services       

  2. General physical education with support services

  3. Specifically designed integrated physical education (e.g., a buddy for every student with disability; a community recreation setting to learn transition skills)

  4. A resource room, separate setting, or one to one tutoring

LRE Human Supports include:(Sherrill 2004)

  • Consultants (adapted physical educators)
  • Adult aids (paraprofessionals, paraeducators)
  • Peer and cross age tutors, peer helpers, coaches
  • Recreators associated with disability and sport
  • Special educators, orientation
  • Mobility specialist
  • Others

In order to include learners with disabilities in the general physical education setting, a great deal of care must be taken to create an environment in which they will:

  • Complete annual goals and objectives in Physical Education on the learners' IEP
  • Experience success
  • Be an active, rather than a passive, participant in the general physical education program

Auxter, Pyfer, and Huettig (2005) have identified the following 9 variables which must be considered when designing instruction in physical education in the least restrictive environment.

  • Accessibility
  • Curriculum
  • Program Participation
  • Support Personnel
  • Teaching Style
  • Management of Behavior
  • Grading
  • Assessment
  • Equipment


Facilities vary from district to district. Some schools have a gym plus outdoor areas, and some only have one small gym. Evaluating the facility for the appropriateness for all learners is vital. A result of the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, all new facilities much be built to ensure access for all individuals with disabilities.


The most inclusive curriculum for most learners is based upon the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) National Standards for Physical Education. The most restrictive, but perhaps most appropriate, curriculum for some learners is a specially designed Adapted Physical Education curriculum.

Program Participation

The most inclusive environment for most learners will be full, independent participation in general physical education. The most restrictive environment for most learners is Adapted Physical Education in a home, institution or hospital. Program participation variables include participation in appropriate units or appropriate parts of the general physical education lesson.

Support Personnel

The most inclusive environment for most learners is one in which no support personnel are necessary and the learner is able to accomplish IEP goals and objectives when taught by the general physical educator at the same time other learners of the same age are receiving instruction. After all, the presence of an adult [or even a peer] designated to help is very separating. The most restrictive learning environment, but perhaps necessary, is one in which the student receives direct instruction, full-time, from the Adapted Physical Education teacher.

Teaching Style

The teaching style that works best for learners with disabilities is dependent upon the unique needs of the learner. For example, a command style may be very helpful for a learner with an emotional disturbance who requires a great deal of structure. On the other hand, a learner with a behavior disorder who struggles with specific rules may be more successful with a teacher using individually designed programs or guided discovery.

Management of Behavior

The least restrictive environment is one in which the student can function successfully with the same behavior expectations as his/her peers. An individually designed behavior management plan (BMP) may be necessary; while more restrictive, it may be a precursor to successful participation in the general physical education program.


The most inclusive situation is one in which the student is graded according to the criteria used for other students and receives the same report cards. It may be more restrictive, but necessary, to modify grading or the type of report cards for students with disabilities.


A comprehensive assessment is perhaps the most critical piece in decisions regarding least restrictive environment.  A student can not and should not be placed into any learning environment without a comprehensive adapted physical education assessment. The legislation mandates that learners with disabilities be included, whenever possible, in state-mandated assessments.


The most inclusive environment is one in which the learner can participate using the same equipment other learners are using. It may be more restrictive if the student requires specialized equipment that separates the student from others.


What is the difference between inclusion and LRE?

 The difference between inclusion and LRE is that inclusion is a philosophy that promotes school options, while LRE is the most appropriate setting for a child with disabilities to be education in (Davis & Davis, 1994).

Table 1. A Comparison of Inclusion and the Least Restrictive Environment




Mandated by Law



Reflects educational school reform



Concerned with placement options along a continuum



Concerned with appropriate education for all children



Must be included on studentís IEP



Has procedural guidelines from implementation



Uses support services on-site



Table taken from Davis and Davis (1994).



Mainstreaming is the process of placing individuals with disabilities into the general education or community environment.  The term is now not recommended because of its association with the perceived ďdumpingĒ of students into general educational classes without the support they need (Kasser & Lytle, 2004).

Mainstreaming and Inclusion 

The two terms are related, but are quite different.  In mainstreaming, as in partial inclusion, an individual with a disabilityís home classroom is a special education classroom.  However, students who are mainstreamed will spend most of their day learning side by side with their general educated peers. In mainstreaming the students are usually expected to keep up with the rest of their peers without significant supplementary aids and support services.

This supports and values having individuals with disabilities interact with student without any disabilities



Auxter, D., Pyfer, J. & Huettig, C. (2005). Principles and methods of adapted physical

education and recreation. (10th ed.), McGraw Hill: New York.

Davis, R. & Davis, T. (1994). Inclusion and least restrictive environments. Teaching

Elementary Physical Education, 5(5), 1, 4-5.

Kasser, S.L., & Lytle, R.K. (2005). Inclusive physical activity: A liftetime of

opportunities. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, U.S.C., Title 20 , §§ 1400

et seq.

Least restrictive environment retrieved on 04/18/2007 from;


Lieberman, L.J., & Houston-Wilson, C. (2002). Strategies for INCLUSION: A

handbook for physical educators. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Sherrill, C (2004). Adapted physical activity, recreation and sport: Crossdisciplinary

and lifespan. (6th ed). New York: McGraw Hill.




Recommended Web Sites




Information on this sheet was developed by Texas Woman's University

Updated by Stephanie Bowerman, Doctorate Student; Mandy Goff, Masterís Student (Summer 2007)

Note: Additional contributions were made from Paz Diaz, Shweta Soni, Ranu Singhvi, Hishamm Mughrabi and LaShanda McKenzie, Masterís Students (Spring 2007)

page last updated 1/3/2017 1:00 PM