Experts comment on fostering inclusion in after-school clubs

March 27, 2024

Every child has an innate sense of curiosity and a desire to try new things. After-school clubs provide an ideal setting for children to explore different interests and develop new skills in a supportive and safe environment.

However, it is often the case that children who would benefit most find it hardest to access after-school clubs. These include children from disadvantaged backgrounds, those with additional learning needs and other marginalized groups.

Inclusive programs encourage children to learn together irrespective of their background or ability level. They proactively strive to give all children an equal opportunity to show their strengths, develop their skills, build friendships and discover new interests. But fostering inclusion takes planning and commitment. We have asked a panel of experts to answer some common questions on how to go about it and overcome common barriers.


What is the first step to ensuring all children are treated equally?

Create a space where all children – those with and without special needs – can learn and play together. Research shows that every child can grow and thrive in an inclusive environment. In fact, children with disabilities who are fully integrated into inclusive programs are able to develop positive social-emotional skills, attain higher levels of academic achievement , build more meaningful relationships and set higher aspirations.

The same research found that all children grow and develop as a result of the relationships they cultivate and sustain inside inclusive programs, regardless of their ability. Crystal Allen, Education and Training Specialist at Kids Included Together


Why is inclusion so important in extra-curricular activities?

The value of integrated athletic activities and improved opportunities to compete cannot be overstated. The first effect is that the disabled student, in participating with his/her peers at a competitive level, is able to grow in terms of motor and social skills. Even more importantly, such students gain confidence in other areas of their lives in which they socially interact, such as school. The second effect is that the typical peers grow in an area rarely addressed in society writ large, empathy and compassion.

Typical peers learn how we all face challenges in our lives, disabled or not, and that part of being a good teammate is to use your specific skill set to help others become great. This continues to break down barriers and helps these typical players grow in their leadership, compassion, and making others great. Stephen Menendian, Assistant Director and Director of Research at The Othering & Belonging Institute

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