Prepare for Inclusion

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to include children with special needs in our classes – how do we make it a fun, safe, and educational experience for them? Dr. Robin Pearson is a special education coach specializing in gymnastics and shared with us some great tips!

Prepare for Inclusion

Guest Post by Dr. Robin Pearson, MS, EdD

The question is frequently posed by parents, “Do you accept children with special needs?” Owners and coaches face the challenges of meeting the needs of children with specific diagnoses in which parents often do not disclose the details due to fear of rejection.  Many programs desire the ability to include children with special needs. As with any prospective new program – planning, preparation, and anticipating trouble fosters the best opportunities for success. 

1. Prepare your staff

Partner with special education teachers or occupational therapists to help train and problem solve. Learn basic sign language like “line up”, “sit”, “watch”, and “wait.” Create routines all instructors implement for consistency.

2. Prepare your students

Have clear expectations and routines in place in which they help to guide peers with different abilities. Teach them to care for one another as well as complement one another to ensure repeated desired behaviors. Social learning is best learned through peer modeling and positive encouragement by a caring teacher. Teach your children basic sign language.

3. Prepare your Facility

Consider your own senses. Children with special needs struggle with too much stimulation thus lighting, noise, textures, and smells create either conducive learning environments or places of chaos. Visually, gyms can be overwhelming. Large open spaces invite children to run or hide.  How can your gym accommodate these specific challenges? Be creative! Consider using structures that limit visual distractions yet allow parents to clearly observe. Have a space for children to calm themselves like a pop-up tent or tunnel. 


Finally, prepare the individual student and family by welcoming them in. Consider introducing the child to the facility and routines. Perhaps provide a buddy prior to their first class. It is not a race. Allow time for adaptation.

Learn more at at 

Dr. Robin Pearson, MS, EdD
Special Education and Gymnastics Professional Development Training Consultation

Since college, Robin has been drawn to helping adults and children with special needs in recreation programs, camping, Special Olympics, and gymnastics. After many years managing gymnastics programs she made the leap to become a special education teacher in self-contained, and inclusive settings for children in in pre-K, primary, and secondary settings.  Her unique educational talents stem from experiences developed in the classroom, writing and delivering professional development, and assisting teachers to comprehend diverse learning styles.  

Her expertise is in the areas of brain-based learning, movement education, and social emotional aptitude presented through practical solutions that can be easily implemented to see results using dynamic professional development founded in research-based techniques. Her desire is to empower educators to understand personal and student learning processes key to problem solving student needs and solutions.

Visit her at 

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