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The goal of this NSDA Learn course is to help coaches identify and promote best practices for engaging and mentoring students with disabilities. This course will provide an overview of key terms, potential strategies, as well as the legal framework for following the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504. 

As an overarching note, this course aims to increase awareness about the different considerations and supports that can help to create an accessible and inclusive environment; however, what is best for each student and each team is inherently individualized. For example, the needs of a student with a hearing impairment will be different from those of a student with a physical disability, which will differ still from the needs of a student with a specific learning disability. The recommendations in this course are intended to help educators and coaches to make more mindful decisions about the communities they cultivate so that the opportunities created through speech and debate are able to be enjoyed by all students.

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These materials are meant to inform you but do not constitute legal advice. While current as of the date of presentation, the information that is provided may be superseded by local regulations, court decisions, legislative amendments, rule changes, and opinions issued by bodies interpreting the area of law. We cannot render legal advice without an awareness and analysis of the facts of a particular situation. If you have questions about the application of concepts addressed in this course, you should consult with your school’s legal counsel.

Pre-Course Survey

Please read through and make a mental note of the box that best describes your baseline knowledge for each area entering this course. There are no correct or incorrect answers—this is a reflection tool to help you to gauge your overall understanding of each of the topics that will be covered. 

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Individualized Education Program (IEP) and a 504 Accommodation Plan. I feel comfortable seamlessly utilizing this information to inform my coaching and would be able to explain this to others. I have a firm understanding of what this is and how it can apply to my coaching. I am not familiar with this term or am unsure of how it would apply to my coaching.
The difference between accommodations and modifications in a practice or competitive setting I feel comfortable with both what distinguishes these adaptations from each other and how they may apply to my coaching practices. I have a conceptual understanding of both of these adaptations and could think of ways they could apply to my coaching. I am not familiar with one or both of these terms or am unsure how they would apply to my coaching.
Recognizing and mitigating common barriers to entry for students with disabilities I feel comfortable identifying common potential barriers and know how to proactively set up an intentionally inclusive environment on my team. I can identify some structural barriers and have some ideas for how to set up an inclusive environment to mitigate these. I am not familiar with these barriers or am not sure how I could help to mitigate them through my coaching practices.
Steps to advocate for accommodations at a tournament or in a competitive setting I feel comfortable identifying and implementing the necessary steps to advocate for accommodations in a tournament setting, when appropriate. I am aware of the steps that can be taken to advocate for accommodations in a tournament setting. I am not familiar with how to advocate for accommodations at a tournament or am not sure when this would be appropriate.
My overall comfort level with understanding how to effectively engage and mentor students with disabilities. While there is always room to grow, I have a working knowledge and a toolbox of strategies to effectively engage and mentor students of all ability levels. I am familiar with the terminology and have an understanding of many of the best practices for engaging students of all ability levels but am not always sure how to put these into practice. I am unfamiliar with the terminology around special education or am unsure how to differentiate my coaching to engage students of all ability levels.

Upon completion of this course, coaches and educators will be able to:

      • Recognize the importance of engaging and mentoring students at all ability levels.
      • Define potential challenges that exist for students with disabilities who would like to participate in speech and debate.
      • Identify and implement the basic legal requirements for creating an accessible environment through the IDEA and Section 504 regulation.  
      • Differentiate between accommodations and modifications and identify potential applications in practice and competitive forums.
      • Identify and implement strategies for creating a safe, equitable, and inclusive team environment.
      • Identify resources that are available for helping coaches create an accessible environment both in practices and during competitions.