Hidden disabilities: A study in the application of IDEA and Section 504 in the high school athletics




Perry, Kristen Nicole

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Five percent of children in the United States have a disability in the areas of language processing, attention, impulse, and motor control while an additional 15% or more students go unidentified (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014). These disabilities often go unnoticed; they are hidden. According to Beyer, Flores, and Vargas-Tonsing (2008) most athletic coaches at the varsity level believe that athletes with disabilities have a right to participate in traditional high school sports. However, 83% stated they were inadequately prepared to coach these athletes. Although instructional interventions could be applied to all students, coaches must be aware of disabilities amongst their student-athletes (Angle, 2007) to ensure continued learning and success in their designated sports. Therefore the purpose of this study was to determine whether varsity high school athletic personnel are following state and federal laws by using individual education programs and/or Section 504 Plans for their student-athletes with disabilities. A purposive interview was used with a population of 6A assistant principals, athletic directors, and varsity head coaches. The results of this study found that although coaches believe student-athletes with Hidden Disabilities have a right to participate in interscholastic sport, they are inadequately prepared to not only coach these athletes, but were ominously unaware that these athletes are required, by law, added support in the athletic arena as well. These results are significant because it adds to a limited body of research regarding compliance to state and federal regulations dealing with student-athletes with disabilities participating in athletics, as well as the significance that professional development has on coaches working with student-athletes.



Kinesiology, Sports management, Special education, Educational administration