Special Education News in Brief

Guidance Offered on Making P.E. More Inclusive

By Nirvi Shah — October 18, 2011 1 min read
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Schools should prepare to offer specialized equipment, wheelchair-accessible surfaces, and teacher training to encourage broader participation of special education students in physical education, the U.S. Department of Education recommends in recently released guidance for school districts.

The guidance was a response to a 2010 study by the Government Accountability Office, which concluded that many classrooms have evolved over the years to work better for students with disabilities, but that the school gym and athletic fields may be exceptions.

Physical activity is 4.5 times lower for children with disabilities than for their peers without disabilities, the Education Department’s office of special education programs notes in the guidance. While some students lack the physical capacity to participate, others are simply missing the opportunity.

The office recommends that schools have special equipment, such as treadmills, that provides even walking surfaces, and video-game systems that can simulate sports for students who can’t participate in traditional ways.

Educators who work with students should also have training in how to adapt physical education classes for students with disabilities, according to the guidance.

“Athletics in the school setting involve complex interactions in settings less controlled than the typical academic classroom,” the office says. “Team play and sportsmanship cannot be taught except through participation.”

The department’s office for civil rights is expected to provide separate guidance on the legal aspects of providing extracurricular athletic opportunities to students with disabilities.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2011 edition of Education Week as Guidance Offered on Making P.E. More Inclusive

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