Physical education is an important part of any child’s education. This is where adapted physical education comes in. Adapted PE professionals makes adjustments to lessons and activities so all students can benefit from exercise and physical activity.
What is Adapted PE?
Adapted physical education is PE that has been modified for students with physical, cognitive, or emotional disabilities. The goal is to give these students an equal opportunity to be active and engage in physical education alongside their mainstream peers. Adapted PE classes make accommodations based on a student’s needs. Some examples include:
- Using specialized equipment like walkers, grip bars, or oversized balls
- Adjusting rules, spacing, or equipment for activities
- Providing additional instructors or peer supports
- Focusing more on developing motor skills
- Tailoring activities to a student’s capabilities
Who Qualifies for Adapted PE?
In most schools, adapted PE is available for any child whose disability impacts their ability to fully participate in a typical PE class. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) team will determine if a student requires adapted physical education services. Parents can request an evaluation if they believe their child needs additional supports. Students with conditions like:
- Physical disabilities (e.g. cerebral palsy)
- Intellectual or developmental disabilities
- Sensory impairments (vision/hearing loss)
- Behavioral disorders (autism, ADHD)
- Health impairments (asthma, obesity)
may benefit from adapted PE. The adaptations allow all students to enjoy the advantages of physical education.
Benefits of Adapted Physical Education
Adapted PE offers many benefits for students with special needs. It provides:
- A safe environment to be active and practice skills
- Social interaction with peers
- Improvements in strength, coordination, and cardiovascular health
- Better self-esteem and confidence
- Opportunities to participate in sports, games, and other activities
- An inclusive physical education experience
Push-in vs Pull-out Service
With push-in services, the adapted physical education teacher provides supports to students within the general physical education setting. The adapted PE teacher attends mainstream PE classes alongside the general PE teacher. This allows the adapted teacher to:
- Make modifications to activities so all students can participate. This may involve changing equipment, rules, spacing, etc.
- Provide individual support to students who need help with motor skills, following directions, staying on task, etc.
- Monitor student progress and safety.
- Collaborate with the general PE teacher to differentiate instruction.
- Suggest adaptations for specific students to the general teacher.
- Facilitate interactions between disabled and non-disabled peers.
Push-in services promote inclusion by enabling students with special needs to learn alongside their typical peers.
In pull-out services, the student is removed from the general PE setting to work one-on-one or in a small group with the adapted PE teacher. Pull-out allows for:
- Individualized instruction tailored to the student’s abilities and goals.
- More repetitions to practice skills.
- Closer monitoring for progress and safety.
- A quiet setting if the student is easily distracted or overwhelmed.
- Targeted skill development at the student’s pace.
- Privacy for students who need assistance with dressing, toileting, etc.
Pull-out services may alternate with push-in to ensure students also have opportunities to socialize and participate in group activities. The IEP team determines the right balance of push-in and pull-out based on the individual child’s needs.
Adapted PE helps students build foundational skills to live an active, healthy lifestyle. Consult with your child’s IEP team to determine if adapted PE is appropriate. With the right supports, all children can thrive in physical education.
- Adapted Physical Education (APE): Specially designed physical education programming and services for students with disabilities or other special needs. Allows students to fully participate in physical education at their level.
- Individualized Education Program (IEP): A written plan developed by a team that details the special education services a child will receive. Adapted PE services may be included in the IEP.
- Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): Educating students with disabilities with their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible. APE allows this in the gym/on the field.
- Modifications: Changes made to the environment, equipment, rules, etc. to allow a student to participate meaningfully in physical education. Common APE modifications include adaptive equipment, fewer players, and adjusted rules.
- Accommodations: Changes that allow a student to access the material without changing the content. Examples include peer tutors, verbal cues, and additional instruction/modeling.
- Specially-Designed Instruction: Adapting the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to meet the needs of a student with disabilities. APE provides this.
- Gross Motor Skills: Large movement skills like running, jumping, throwing. APE works on developing these skills.
- Fine Motor Skills: Small, precise movements like writing, cutting, tying shoes. APE activities can promote fine motor development.
- Assistive Technology: Any device that helps a student work around physical disabilities. Can include walkers, grippers, velcro, and more.
- Inclusion: Students with disabilities learning alongside their non-disabled peers. APE allows students to be included in PE.
- Physical Therapist: A healthcare professional who evaluates and treats physical disabilities. May assist with APE recommendations.
- Adapted Physical Educator: Specially trained to work with students with diverse abilities in physical education. Provides direct APE services.
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