Integrating Students with Disabilities with General Education Students in Various Physical Education Activities at the Middle School Level

Article excerpt

Herndon Middle School (Fairfax County, VA) is the site of a unique program that integrates 7th and 8th grade students with disabilities from an adapted physical education class with general education students from a 7th grade physical education class. Focus of the program is to provide students with disabilities and general education students opportunities to interact with each other in settings that might be unique to their current situations. For such an exchange to work, there must be extensive communication and cooperation among the general physical education teacher, adapted physical education teacher, and adapted physical education itinerant specialist.

The adapted physical education program at Herndon Middle School is three years old, having grown from four to eleven students. Students in this program have a wide range of disabilities--from severe cases of cerebral palsy necessitating wheelchairs, to less involved cases requiring crutches, to those needing no assistance. The goals of the program are to provide students chances to increase proficiency in various sport skills and games, improve fitness and flexibility levels, and enhance overall motor coordination. Modifications, such as use of ramps for students with disabilities and allowing more helpers and aides to promote greater opportunities to teach, are used on an individual basis with the goal of providing each student with the least restrictive environment in which to learn skills and provide for success.

During the same time frame (4th period) is a general education physical education class with three students with disabilities whose conditions allow them to be mainstreamed into the class. The students are provided services from an adapted physical education itinerant teacher who comes three times a week to offer individual help, make assessments, and observe student progress. The itinerant teacher also provides assistance to the physical education teacher into whose class students have been mainstreamed. All three teachers communicate expectations with weekly and biweekly meetings, as well as prior to class time.

During the three days the itinerant teacher is present, and during selected activities deemed appropriate and safe, certain selected students from each class are given chances to go to the other class for the activity. The number is generally anywhere from two to three from the adapted class and from six to ten from the general education class. Both classes agreed to be working on the same activity (i.e., soccer, flag football), therefore promoting curricular continuity.

Activities

Activities selected corresponded to the seventh grade curriculum in Fairfax County and were consistent with the physical education department at Herndon Middle School. Each unit consisted of appropriate activities for the age, as well as ones that could be safely performed within the framework of the unit. During the fall semester, soccer, flag football, bowling, and volleyball were offered. Students were selected for exchange based on attitudes and abilities to perform minimal tasks with safety.

Benefits

Exchange of students had several desired benefits--

* Provided opportunities for students with disabilities to have contact with those in the general education student population. Many of these students had little or no contact with other students except for this situation. It provided a sense of belonging, so critical during the adolescent years.

* Allowed students with disabilities chances to work on skills with other students in a cooperative setting. …