Allowing disabled kids in sports: a homerun or a strike out?

The US Education Department says students with disabilities must be given a fair chance to participate in sports, on traditional sports teams or in their own leagues. The order went out to schools across the nation Friday.

Students with disabilities who want to play for their school could join traditional teams, if officials could make "reasonable modifications" to accommodate them.

On occasion, special needs children already participate in high school sports. In 2011, a Down syndrome player on the Hilton Head High School football team was allowed to score a touchdown against Myrtle Beach in a play that didn't alter the outcome of the game, but that kind of participation by special needs students is rare.

Advocates for disabled children told WPDE NewsChannel 15 they're generally supportive of the rule change, but they have questions about what it would entail.

The Grand Strand Miracle League's executive director says she's all for offering special needs kids more athletic opportunities, but that can be more complicated than it sounds.

"You may talk about someone who is wheelchair bound or someone whose decision making abilities are just not at the same level where they could be safe in a typical sporting environment," said Tory Mackey.

The board president of SOS Health Care, which provides services for autistic kids, says every child should have the ability to participate in sports. But she wants to know more about what's involved in this rule change.

"I'm a big proponent of integration and having children with disabilities included, but it has to be the right situation and it has to be right for all parties involved."

Bauerle says maybe bullying and segregation of special needs kids would decrease, if they were allowed in athletics.

Mackey says sports are supposed to be about learning how to be a good teammate and a good person. Allowing disabled kids to participate in sports might help.

"There is nobody better than to have somebody that the team is looking out for a little more than others to do that kind of thing. It would be an enriching experience, I'm sure."

Grand Strand area athletic directors told WPDE NewsChannel 15 they just don't know enough about the rule change to talk about it, but at the national level, some experts are comparing it to the Title IX law in 1972 that led to a huge increase in female sports participation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.