Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of inclusion education programmes with special education programmes on physical fitness levels of children with mental challenges.
Methods: Participants were 69 elementary school students with mental challenges. Thirty-four children with a mean age of 12.3 ± 2.4 were included in an inclusion physical education programme with non-disabled peers. In addition, 35 children with a mean age of 12.1 ± 1.8 participated in a special class for children with mental challenges. Balance tests, grip strength and Brockport Physical Fitness Test (BPFT) were used to evaluate the physical fitness levels of children.
Results: Results indicated that physical fitness parameters; 20 metre shuttle run, push-up, trunk lift, vertical jump and balance test scores were significantly lower in children in the special class (p < 0.05). There were no significant differences in BMI, calf skinfold thickness, grip strength in dominant hand, sit and reach test and modified Apley test (p > 0.05).
Conclusion: The physical fitness level was better in children with mental challenges who were participating in an inclusion programme with non-disabled peers. Therefore, it is recommended for children with mental challenges to be part of an inclusion programme with their non-disabled peers.