“What if…?” Scenarios

We have developed seven “what if” scenarios as a resource for wellness professionals, coaches, parks and recreation staff, and others.  These scenarios are meant to apply inclusion concepts learned in our  Free Training Modules  to real-life situations that may be encountered in various physical activity settings.  These scenarios can also serve as prompts for conversations and planning among physical activity staff members.  Links to a variety of resources are included throughout the document.

These scenarios are designed to stimulate conversation among wellness professionals. Consider using them as a conversation starter at a staff meeting or during a training session with volunteer coaches. Read the scenario together and discuss your own thoughts before looking at the suggestions listed in the bullet points. The bullet points are only ideas, they aren’t the only ways to handle the scenario. Talk together and decide what is best for your organization, with the guiding principles you learned in our  Free Training Modules  as a framework.

Scenario #1:

You are teaching an adult yoga class with 12 participants.  Shelly is a regular attender of the class who has Down Syndrome.  She works with you to modify activities as necessary but actually requires very little special attention or adaptations.  During one of the classes, she experiences incontinence in the middle of class and there is a puddle of urine on the mat. She is flustered and embarrassed and does not want to attract attention but can not continue participating without cleaning up.

Show Suggestions
  • Rest assured, this does happen, and it’s OK
  • If possible, continue teaching while calmly grabbing some towels
  • Again, while continuing to instruct other members of the class through positions, subtly prompt Shelly to use the restroom.
  • While Shelly is in the restroom, place a new yoga mat in a new space.
  • When Shelly returns, prompt her to the new yoga mat.

Scenario #2:

Scott is an instructor at the local golf course.  On Wednesday evenings, there is a group lesson that includes driving and putting instruction and practice.  During the driving portion of the lesson, Sergei, a participant in the lesson, often makes inappropriate noises at inappropriate times.  Sergei has no visible disability but Scott is pretty sure that Sergei has special needs. His skill level is very low compared to everyone else in the class and his behaviors are awkward.  Scott has tried to be patient but he is concerned that the noises that Sergei makes are disruptive to others in the class and it makes him uncomfortable.

Show Suggestions
  • As mentioned in the Planning Inclusive Programs module, situations such as this one rely on positive communication and building relationships with our participants.  Some things you may discover as you get to know Sergei are:
    • that he gets nervous or anxious during driving practice, in which case he may need some encouragement or reassurance.
    • that the swings of the other participants around Sergei are overstimulating or distracting, in which case it may be helpful for him to practice at a tee on the end of the row.
    • that he is bored during driving practice, in which case some motivational reinforcements, practice counters, or visual timers may be helpful so that Sergei is working toward achieving a certain number of practice swings.  Reinforcements such as praise, high fives, or a brief break should be delivered as soon as Sergei demonstrates appropriate, quiet waiting behavior.  You may also find an alternate activity or fidget alternative for him to do/use while the other participants take their practice swings. For additional examples of reinforcements, practice counters, or visual timers, register and sign in to this free web resource: https://www.toolkit4pe.com/positive-behavior and click on Resources and then click on Positive Behavior.  The Addressing Challenging Behaviors module also contains resources related to reinforcements and motivation.
  • The key is to determine the antecedent or trigger for the noises.  An antecedent is something (could be an event, a noise, or something else) that occurs immediately prior to Sergei making inappropriate noises.
  • You may also help Sergei stay more focused by discussing his goals for participation in the lessons, and his interests, and helping him connect his behavior to those goals. See the Planning Inclusive Programs module for tips on constructing individualized goals and objectives.

Scenario #3:

You are coaching a youth football team and you have a participant, Joseph, who is extremely unskilled, uncoordinated, and seems to have trouble connecting with his teammates.  He doesn’t seem to pick up on social cues and his communication is awkward. You suspect that Joseph may have a disability and after talking with the parents about how you can better communicate with him, the parents share that their son has high functioning autism.  You are eager to make accommodations so that Joseph can be successful and have a positive sport experience. You work with him on improving his skills during practice and make sure that he gets playing time in the games, but other parents/players complain that this athlete is taking away playing time from their child.  They claim that having a player on the field with such low skill level puts their kids at risk of injury. They know that it’s rec league so you have to give him playing time but they want you to convince Joseph to quit the team.

Show Suggestions
  • Some of this frustration could be eased through planning and preparation prior to the beginning of the season.
  • Preseason meeting with parents should include an emphasis on program mission and reference to developmental youth sport.
  • If equal playing time is in accordance with the club policies, be sure this is communicated to parents prior to the season.
  • Hold a team meeting prior to the start and during season and include team building activities, pre/post-practice debrief to highlight what they did to create a positive environment for teammates, and what they could do differently to create a more inclusive environment for all.
  • Recognize athletes who show good sportsmanship or who display an inclusive attitude, help teammates, etc.  Reward the behavior you wish to see.
  • Here is another resource for inclusive sport that you may find helpful: https://inclusivesportdesign.com/

Scenario #4:

You are coaching a Saturday recreational kickball league that is open to anyone in the community ages 6-10.  Lottie is an athletically gifted child but has significant communication and behavioral challenges. She does have verbal communication skills but she does not follow instructions well and is unsportsmanlike with her peers, who are growing in their frustration with her.  Her behaviors are creating an unsafe environment for her and she is becoming more hostile towards the other kids. You have tried to talk to her parents about creating a behavior modification plan but they are uncooperative and are accusing you of singling her out for being annoying. They have disclosed that she is on the autism spectrum but they want her to be treated “the same as everyone else” and other kids don’t need behavior modification plans.

Show Suggestions
  • You can still set up a behavior modification plan without singling out Lottie in front of her peers.
  • See the Addressing Challenging Behaviors Module or the Toolkit4PE for examples.  These resources are free, but you will need to register and login.
  • Be sure to prompt the athlete prior to beginning each session/game.  Clearly and concisely identify the positive behavior you wish to see (e.g. “When I get tagged out, I say ‘that stinks’ and then quietly walk back to the dugout.”).
  • May need to find a volunteer who can help with the team, but who can be the designated person to prompt Lottie or to help her when she is struggling.
  • Team sports and activities can be challenging for individuals with autism spectrum disorder because of the social demands.  It may help to explain the team concept through pictures, videos, or social stories. Again, the Addressing Challenging Behaviors Module contains resources.
  • The Indiana Resource Center for Autism has some great information and resources for working with individuals across the autism spectrum.

Scenario #5:

You are the director of a local softball program and you are organizing adult recreational summer-league teams.  Mateo signs up and reports that he has mild cerebral palsy but that he has participated before without any problems.  You assign him to a team and assume everything will be fine. After a couple of weeks, you receive a call from one of the players on Mateo’s team who is concerned that Mateo really doesn’t have the skills to play in this league.  According to the other player, Mateo has limited mobility. He has been unable to hit the ball in a game (though he has been able to hit some in practice when the ball is lobbed), his base running is slow and he has missed nearly every ball that is hit in his direction in the field.  The players on the team have expressed frustration and wonder if there is a different division (perhaps an adapted division) that would be a better fit for Mateo.

Show Suggestions
    • Communication is very important in this situation.  The mission of the recreational program should be reiterated to all players.
    • You may consider making modifications that are within the rules of the recreational league but ONLY AFTER a conversation with Mateo to see what he would be comfortable with.  Modifications might include:
      1. hitting off of a tee
      2. talking to the other team’s pitcher about lobbing the ball to Mateo
      3. adjusting the bases when he is running
    • Check out this resource for additional training and resources related to creating an inclusive sport environment.

Scenario #6:

You are coaching a competitive teen basketball league.  Dante is a highly skilled player who has Tourette syndrome.  The other boys know that they can’t tease Dante when he has ticks or involuntary vocalizations, and they appreciate the athleticism that he brings to the team, he is one of their leading scorers.  Although the boys are kind, they do not connect well with Dante and when it is time to do partner drills they actively avoid partnering with him. They don’t know how to handle the unwanted sounds and they are embarrassed by the way he draws attention to them.  You try to assign him to a partner who will be able to handle it but realize that you’re always giving him the same one or two partners which isn’t fair to them or helpful to the team.

Show Suggestions
    • First talk to Dante’s parents to get an idea about what they are comfortable with, run any plans to address the situation by them first. Assuming parental permission, you may have a team meeting without Dante there where you explain Tourette syndrome and work with them on expressing and overcoming their discomfort.  You could do some basic disability awareness activities to help them recognize what it might feel like to have a disability.  The team already has some knowledge about the syndrome so what they really need to work on is comfort level and understanding.
    • Start each practice with team building cooperative exercises that require switching partners so that each player necessarily works with every other player every day, even if only for a short time at first.
    • Talk to Dante about any accommodations that he might need to minimize the effects of Tourette syndrome, such as extra breaks or stress-relieving moments during practices.

Scenario #7:

You are teaching a beginners youth swimming lesson.  Katya is a 10-year-old girl in the class who loves the water but she has the lowest swimming ability of all the kids in the class.  She has significant hearing loss in both ears and wears bi-lateral hearing aids when she is out of the water. The splashing and echoing in the pool make it virtually impossible for her to hear or focus on anything you are saying.  She can read lips to some degree but mostly relies on watching the other kids in the class for cues about what to do. She prefers to have her head under the water all the time, where the noise stimulation is minimized. It is difficult for you to get her to keep her head out of the water to watch your mouth when you are giving instructions.  Each week she falls further behind the other kids in skill level and it is becoming unsafe for her to try to copy the other kids.

Show Suggestions
    • You should have visual cues for every drill or activity you plan for the week.  They can be laminated so that they are water friendly. Here is a link to sample visual prompts for aquatics: https://www.dropbox.com/s/svcovlrmz3qaey6/PECS%20Complete.pdf?dl=0
    • You can learn some basic ASL.
    • You can suggest that Katya wear earplugs to block out the distracting pool noises since you can’t rely on her hearing anyway.
    • You will probably need to modify some of the activities as the class progresses, you can talk to Katya before class about watching you and your signals instead of simply following the cues of the other children.
    • Praise Katya for keeping her head out of water to watch for instructions.  Consider a token economy, or simple high-5’s to reinforce these behaviors.