Exploring Perspectives of Youth with and Without Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and varying intersectional identities towards a Mixed Abilities Physical Education Program and Quality Participation Experiences


Students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and various marginalized social identities (e.g. race, SES) have limited opportunities in to engage in physical education (PE). Guided by the theory of intersectionality and the quality participation (QP) framework, this exploratory case study investigated how to develop a mixed abilities PE curriculum in a marginalized school community in Ontario, Canada. Participants included youth with (n=3) and without (n=6) IDD, teachers (n=8), educational assistants (n=2), and a vice principal (n=1). Multiple methods were used including participant observation, guided photovoice, and semi structured interviews. A multi-level intersectional analysis was taken to explore the relationship between identities of participants, the sociopolitical school system and the building blocks of QP. School staff and students demonstrated interest in a mixed abilities PE program but noted certain requirements including: building strong rapport between staff and students in the program, inclusive instruction, appropriately trained staff, a student-matching process, and strategies for program sustainability. Youth with and without IDD provided similar examples for how the QP building blocks related to belongingness and meaning could be implemented in the program, e.g., having friends in the same class and fostering personal connections towards course materials. Youth also discussed how their intersectional social identities impacted their quality participation experiences (e.g., unable to afford sports programming outside of school). The results of this research will inform the essential components needed to develop an appropriate mixed abilities PE curriculum for youth with IDD and varying intersectional identities, based on the theoretical underpinnings of quality participation.