Despite the fact that over five million students with disabilities are currently enrolled in America’s public schools, many schools do not offer disability-inclusive activities. That’s something the non-profit organization, The Sparkle Effect, is hoping to change. One team at a time, the organization’s goal is to help implement disability-inclusive sports and activities in public schools. Starting with one cheerleading team in 2008 – the “Spartan Sparkles” in Iowa – the organization has grown exponentially; to date they have supported almost 200 teams in 29 states! Perth Amboy High School in New Jersey is one of the latest high schools to adopt the program, making eight total Sparkle teams in the Tri-State area!

For students participating in the program, the benefits reach far beyond the football field. Parents of students with disabilities who participate in the program say they have seen an improvement in both their children’s school attendance and their grades. In addition, a recent case study conducted by St. Ambrose University determined that schools who had a Sparkle Effect team saw a marked increase in respectful, accepting, and inclusive interactions in the whole student body – not just those students involved in the program. Most importantly, it allows for students with disabilities to be included, leading to more understanding, friendship, and social inclusion between students and students with disabilities.

All around, this program is truly making a positive impact. It’s a wonderful way to promote inclusion and spark conversation when it comes to students with disabilities.

For more information about the organization, or if you would like to learn how to start a team at a local school, visit the Sparkle Effect website.

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