Social participation of children with intellectual disabilities in inclusive sport: Practical implications for physical education.

  • Christoffer Klenk Institute of Sport Science, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • Max Blaise Institute of Education, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • Thierry Schluchter PH Bern, Switzerland
Keywords: sport participation, sport behaviour, social determinants, structural factors, diversity management


The UN-CRPD has improved inclusion in sport for people with intellectual disabilities, yet this group remains marginalized and faces discrimination and exclusion in sport (Steiger et al., 2021). Although research in this area has increased, there is little empirical evidence of the effectiveness of inclusive settings or of factors that promote success. This study aims to analyse the social participation of children with intellectual disabilities in mainstream schooling and club sports, and the factors influencing this participation. This knowledge is key to the development of effective social participation of people with intellectual disabilities in inclusive schools and sports clubs.

Applying the framework of Koster et al. (2009), a sample of 1,884 students (132 with intellectual disabilities) from 109 school classes (3rd to 6th grade) in 13 Swiss German-speaking cantons completed a standardised questionnaire composed of established instruments.

Multi-level analysis reveals that the level of social participation depends on experienced social contacts and interactions, established relationships, and received social acceptance and perception. The overall effectiveness of participation of those with intellectual disabilities is consistently lower than that of non-disabled peers. Nevertheless, cases with high levels of participation were also observed. Influential factors are at a structural level, such as the design of lessons, trainer and teacher competencies, group climate, school and club conditions, as well as at an individual level such as children and trainer attitudes and competencies.

Specific understanding of these factors supports practitioners to more effectively develop inclusive sport settings. Good practice that actively promotes inclusion in physical education classes includes individualization measures at various levels such as task difficulty and duration, individual assistance, and the use of adapted learning materials. These measures all aim to deepen student participation according to individual competencies.


Koster, M., Nakken, H., Pijl, S. J., & van Houten, E. (2009). Being part of the peer group: A literature study focusing on the social dimension of inclusion in education. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 13(2), 117–140.

Steiger, A., Mumenthaler, F., & Nagel, S. (2021). Friendships in integrative settings: Network analyses in organized sports and a comparison with school. International journal of environmental research and public health 18(12).

How to Cite
Klenk, C., Blaise, M., & Schluchter, T. (2023). Social participation of children with intellectual disabilities in inclusive sport: Practical implications for physical education. Current Issues in Sport Science (CISS), 8(2), 048.