Physical Activity & Sports Department at Cope Foundation

The Cope Foundation Model of the Delivery of Physical Activity and Sports Supports


In Cope Foundation, the Physical Activity and Sports Department manages the delivery of its supports in line with the Black & Stephenson Model of Sports Inclusion, incorporating STEP (Fig. 1) and Cope Foundation’s Adult Services Referral System (CASS).

chartFig. 1 – Stephenson & Black Model of Sports Inclusion

On receipt of a referral, the PA & Sports Manager assigns his/ her management to a senior supervisor in one of the 4 Pathways to Engagement. Within two weeks, the supervisor then carries out a Needs Assessment and proposes a timed Action Plan. Acceptance of the Action Plan requires agreement on a start and finish date for the supports offered.

Pathways to Engagement

  1. Sports Development
  2. Physical Activity for Health and Well Being
  3. Physical Activity for individual with multiple and complex needs
  4. Aquatic activity

basketball actionBasketball action

Sports Development

Each department member has responsibility for at least 3 sports and over the years, the department has delivered and facilitated more than 25 different sports. Service users are supported to engage in the sport of his/her choice, in an environment which is as inclusive as possible. In all sports, the PA & Sports staff member acts, during an initial needs assessment, as a key advocate in ensuring the individual is made aware of all choices available, and supporting him or her choose the option in which he/she has greatest interest, enjoyment and proficiency. A list of the most popular and sought-after sports is included at the end of this document.

Physical activity for Health & Well Being

Individual staff members of the PA & Sports Department have specialised in the field of exercise and fitness and as with Sports Development, following a needs assessment, the individual is facilitated to engage in a physical activity type of his or her choice and with a primary focus on physical health and well-being.

The physical activity will be delivered in the most inclusive physical and social environment possible. We have established several fitness suites across the organisation, where individuals can work and learn the skills necessary to use a gym in the most independent way possible.

table tennisUniversity of Limerick – Inclusive Challenger Table-tennis event

Physical Activity for Individual with Multiple and Complex Needs

Several members of the Physical Activity & Sports Department staff have specialised in this area. The individuals who are supported along this pathway may be older adults or individuals with severe and profound intellectual disabilities, or individuals with complex physical disabilities, or individuals with severe autism.  Following a needs assessment, the individual is facilitated to engage in a physical activity type of his or her choice, with a central focus on physical participation, social engagement, achievement, progression and enjoyment.

Activities chosen in this area are almost always variations of other activities, but with adaptations. These adaptations usually involve alterations to the space within which the activity takes place, the breaking down of motor tasks into simpler tasks, changing the structure of equipment or altering the ability group within which the activity takes place.

motor activitiesAquatic Activity

In 1996, Cope Foundation opened its own hydrotherapy pool. Previously Cope Foundation service users had limited access to local public facilities. Unfortunately, a significant number of the service users were unable to adequately benefit from these pools due to unsuitable water temperature, accessibility problems with changing rooms, showers and toilets, and problems with entry to the swimming pools themselves.

Prior to using the hydrotherapy pool, each individual undergoes a needs assessment. Then, in consultation with other staff / family, an individualised “swimming risk assessment” and a “Swimming Passport” are written up and provided to the client and his/her support team. Where required, a detailed and agreed handling plan is created and used each time the individual uses the pool.

Each swimmer who attends the Cope Foundation pool is assured of personalised attention and supports.

While our pool operates at almost 100% capacity with demand from its own service users, it still manages to provide individual private access to individuals in the local community, for whom hydrotherapy is essential but who cannot access other pools.

Referrals to the Physical Activity & Sports Department for aquatic activity generally seek one of four types of activity;

  • Water based recreation
  • Swimming lessons
  • Water based physical exercise & aqua aerobics
  • Hydrotherapy; individuals in receipt of hydrotherapy will almost always have been referred to the Physiotherapy Dept. and we work closely with that department in order to facilitate access to the pool.


Thomas, N. and Smith, A. (2009). Disability, Sport and Society. [online] Google Books.

Available at: [Accessed 28 Jun. 2018].

Terence McSweeney is a physical education teacher working in special education with Cope Foundation, formerly Cork Polio and General After Care Association. Cope foundation supports 2,300 people with intellectual disability and autism in Cork city and county. email


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