Physical Activity Programming Outside of the Classroom & in Community Settings

Many participants will benefit from physical activity programming outside of the classroom environment and in the community, where they can engage with a wider social network and further develop their physical and social skills to help them to succeed in both environments. Participants will thrive in a positive, welcoming, and safe environment in which their individual needs are met and learning opportunities are provided in diverse ways to encourage participation and achievement. To best facilitate an engaging and enriching experience, physical activity program providers may consider offering a self-contained setting for participants with disabilities, and/or an integrated setting. Both the self-contained setting and the integrated setting have their own considerations and benefits to the participant, depending on their individual strengths and needs.  

This section will assist you in: 

  • Building your understanding of self-contained and integrated settings and considerations for engaging participants in physical activity in each setting, 
  • Exploring strategies to support participants with disabilities in your physical activity program when using a self-contained and/or integrative approach to physical activity, and 
  • Using the guiding questions for support with program planning, including attention to the physical and emotional safety of your participants. 


What is a Self-Contained Setting?

Participants with disabilities who share the same and/or similar goals and needs learn in a physical activity setting segregated from the mainstream physical activity setting.  

A Self-Contained Setting may be Best if… 

  • Participants can be more successful in a small group environment that offers more personalized supports (e.g., direct teaching at a slower pace, one-on-one instruction from the facilitator). 
  • Participants are new to the physical activity and benefit from a personalized program.   


  • Emphasis on participant-specific goals are the priority and can be worked on in a small facilitator-to-student ratio. 
  • Participants are able to work in a setting that is familiar and comfortable to them without the distraction of other peers. 
  • Students with disabilities can be exposed to and build skills related to a variety of physical activities. 

Guiding Questions for Program Planning

  • Are activities adapted and reflective of the participants’ diverse backgrounds for programming and instruction and aligned with their individual goals? 
  • How might collaborating with other individuals who have worked or are working with the participant to learn of additional interventions further support your program goals and delivery? (e.g., connect with the participants’ parents and/or caregivers, physiotherapist/occupational therapist, learning more about strategies that work in the participant’s school environment) 
  • What changes to the social and physical environment and activity space may be needed to enhance the participant experience? (e.g., addressing existing physical barriers, being aware if participants are hesitant to participate in an activity and allowing them a choice of how they would like to participate in the activity, such as what role might they play in a game) 


What is an Integration Setting?

Participants with disabilities are learning alongside peers their age and/or ability in a physical activity setting.  

An Integration Setting may be Best if… 

  • Participants achieve their individual goals through intentional planning by the facilitator. 
  • Numerous opportunities to explore basic concepts and skills are provided through effective instruction techniques and multiple approaches to facilitate practice and skill refinement (e.g., flexible rules, court boundaries, choice of equipment that support participants' needs). 


  • Integrating participants with disabilities with peers has shown to have a number of positive benefits and effects on both parties involved, including developing a positive self-worth, an increased sense of belonging, and advancing communication skills. 
  • Social modelling with similar-aged peers can be used to practice and enhance social skills. 
  • Goals can be achieved faster when participants are exposed to a number of peers modelling the desired physical activity goals. 
  • Students with disabilities can be exposed to, and build skills related to, a variety of physical activities. 

Guiding Questions for Program Planning

  • How can activities be selected, modified, and adapted as required to ensure that all participants are included and feel physically and emotionally safe?  
  • How can the program be designed to ensure maximum participation for all and provide opportunities to participate, practice and improve physical literacy skills?  
  • How can program activities and instruction be differentiated to provide all participants with engaging physical activity experiences that are physically and emotionally safe, so that all participants can experience success?  
  • What considerations can be made pertaining to the type of group into which participants are integrated? (e.g., What personalities and leaders are present?; What ages are the participants and what interests do they have?; What challenges may arise?)