Student Well-Being

Tailoring School Phys. Ed. for Students With Disabilities

By Bryan Toporek — October 14, 2011 1 min read
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After a 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office found that “education has provided little information or guidance on PE or extracurricular athletics for students with disabilities,” it was only a matter of time before the Department of Education would step in.

The GAO discovered that only 29 percent of students with physical disabilities or long-term health problems attend physical education classes five days a week, compared with 34 percent of students without disabilities.

For many children with disabilities, phys. ed. is the one general education class that they get to take regularly. That said, many of those same children may not have specified accommodations noted in their individualized education programs.

Now, the Dept. of Ed. has released additional guidance, my colleague Nirvi Shah reported earlier this week on the On Special Education blog.

The ED’s guidance notes that physical activity is reportedly 4.5 times lower in children with disabilities than those without disabilities, according to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest. This finding concerned researchers, who felt that higher levels of sedentary behavior during childhood were likely to spill over into adulthood, contributing to an increased risk of adult obesity.

What does the ED recommend to help increase physical activity opportunities for students with disabilities? I’ll let Nirvi take it from here:

They recommend specialized equipment, if necessary, such as a treadmill, which provides an even, predictable walking surface. They suggest the Wii, Xbox, and PlayStation, or devices like them, to simulate participation in sports that some students with disabilities can't do in the traditional way. Those who work with students should have training in how to adapt physical education classes for students with disabilities. But participation is key. 'Athletics in the school setting involve complex interactions in settings less controlled than the typical academic classroom,' the guidance says. 'Team play and sportsmanship cannot be taught except through participation.' "

The guidance notes that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to provide a “free appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment” and that physical education is included under IDEA.

For more on the guidance, be sure to check out Nirvi’s post.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.