2018 TASH Conference has ended
Each year, the TASH Conference brings together a diverse community of stakeholders who gain information, learn about resources, and connect with others across the country to strengthen the disability field. This year’s conference theme, “Be Creative - Innovative Solutions for an Inclusive Life,” reminds us to think outside the box during times of uncertainty. Creativity, innovation, and determination can pave the way for meaningful and inclusive lives for people with disabilities.
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Thursday, November 29 • 10:55am - 11:45am
The Sparkle Effect: School-based, Intensive, Immersive, inclusive Physical Activity Programming Seating Available

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Limited Capacity seats available

Over five million students with disabilities attend public schools in the United States; yet, most school sports and activities are not designed to accommodate these students. Not surprisingly then, students with disabilities are often sidelined -- excluded from school sports and the critical social opportunities they offer. Moreover, by perpetuating the segregation of students with disabilities from their peers, schools unjustly deny both groups the essential opportunity to learn and grow together. The Sparkle Effect promotes and supports social inclusion of students with disabilities by empowering students nationwide to include students with disabilities alongside their typically-developing peers in school-based cheerleading and dance programs. The result: students with and without disabilities gain acceptance and confidence, become passionate leaders and help schools and communities to embrace inclusion. See www.TheSparkleEffect.org. To date, The Sparkle Effect has generated, outfitted and trained over 200 school-based inclusive teams in 30 states. Once a Sparkle Effect team is generated at a school, the team practices and performs throughout a school's fall and winter sports seasons. As a result, students enjoy consistent participation in Sparkle Effect programming for up to eight months per year. Most of our teams perform at the majority of home sporting events as well as at pep rallies, homecoming parades, and community charity events. Thus, our participants are provided with an intensive, immersive, and inclusive experience. The idea of belonging - of being an accepted part of a school community should be understood as a basic human right. After all, a school is more than just a place; it inevitably reflects the value system of those who occupy it. A school that only tolerates rather than includes its students with disabilities misses the mark. Tolerance connotes the begrudging acceptance of something unpalatable. By contrast, inclusion demonstrates the belief that when we open our minds and our hearts to all people, everyone benefits. In other words, while diversity addresses the mix, inclusion makes the mix matter. Before The Sparkle Effect was formed in 2009, virtually all cheerleading programs available to students with disabilities operated outside of school systems in private gyms: businesses that developed adult-led, segregated, pay-to-play models. Programs designed only for students with disabilities and carried out in segregated, off-site locations cannot achieve our results. TSE stands alone in generating and tangibly supporting school-based inclusive cheer teams. Our participants become spirited, accepted, and valued members of their school community. Students who were once marginalized become exuberant student-athletes who represent the very best in their schools. In June 2013 the US Department of Education published a "Dear Colleague" letter. The letter outlined a Government Accountability Office report, which found that students with disabilities were not being afforded an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular athletics in public secondary schools. The letter stated, in part, "When the interests and abilities of some students with disabilities cannot be as fully and effectively met by the school district's existing extracurricular athletic program, the school district should create additional opportunities for those students with disabilities." Beyond encouraging districts to "be flexible as they develop programs that consider the unmet interests of students with disabilities," the letter provided little concrete advice to school districts about how to create such programming The Sparkle Effect, a national non-profit, provides a concrete answer to school districts looking for a way to incorporate school-based, inclusive, extracurricular, physical programming. Our teams are youth-led and youth-driven. All team members contribute to the team in a way that compliments their strengths and abilities, while simultaneously enriching the team as a whole. Participation on a Sparkle Effect team promotes open-mindedness, personal awareness, and relationship building. Our team members learn and grow together, gain acceptance and confidence, become passionate leaders, and help schools and communities embrace inclusion. The positive impact resulting from Sparkle Effect teams has been documented in a case study at St. Ambrose University. The study revealed that the presence of a Sparkle Effect team ultimately shifted overall school culture in that it resulted in an increase in respectful, accepting, and inclusive interactions among the entire student body. Our teams also respond to an annual online survey. Our latest survey results (April 2018) were overwhelmingly positive. Over 90% of responders agreed that, since starting a TSE team: (1) students with and without disabilities on Sparkle Effect teams have formed genuine friendships; (2) students with disabilities have become more confident and outspoken during practices; (3) positive interaction between typically developing students and students with disabilities has increased in the hallway, lunchroom, and classrooms; (4) the student body, in general, more readily embraces as a core value the social inclusion of students with disabilities; (5) interactions between typically developing students and students with disabilities have been more respectful and accepting; and (6) the team is a source of pride for the school and community. So, how does it work? The Sparkle Effect offers four primary services to our teams. First, we provide intensive and personalized mentoring as our teams are forming. Our highly experienced and engaged staff members work with school administrators, coaches, and students to ensure that teams are structured for success and sustainability. Second, The Sparkle Effect provides our teams with new uniforms. Our inclusive teams report that their uniforms prove to be transformative. They send the message to the entire school and community: we are all one team. In addition, the uniforms we provide help students convince wary school administrators that the lack of school-based funding need not be an insurmountable hurdle to starting a Sparkle Effect team. Third, we offer hands-on support through our free on-site training program. Our highly personalized trainings allow our staff to guide, inform, and encourage our teen leaders as their teams are getting started, which, in turn, help to establish best practices and ensure sustainability. The trainings also provide our team members with the confidence, sense of responsibility, and motivation necessary to achieve the highest level of success. Finally, we work to sustain our teams by engaging in consistent follow-up, on-going mentoring, and annual refresher trainings. Inclusive. Intensive. Immersive. School-based. Extracurricular. It can be done.

avatar for Sarah Cronk

Sarah Cronk

Founder, The Sparkle Effect
Sarah helped to create and coach the nation's first school based inclusive cheerleading team in Bettendorf, Iowa, when she was just 15 years old. Since then, she has become a nationally recognized speaker and advocate, delivering The Sparkle Effect's message to audiences nationwide... Read More →
avatar for Linda Mullen

Linda Mullen

Executive Director, The Sparkle Effect
I currently serve as the Executive Director of a small, national nonprofit, The Sparkle Effect, Inc. (www.TheSparkleEffect.org) At The Sparkle Effect, we promote and support social inclusion of students with disabilities to create more accepting schools and communities nationwide... Read More →

Thursday November 29, 2018 10:55am - 11:45am PST
Medford - Lower Level 1401 SW Naito Parkway, Portland, OR 97201

Attendees (2)