Maximizing the Use of APE Consultants: What the General Physical Educator Has the Right to Expect

Article excerpt

General physical educators increasingly face the challenges and potential rewards of instructing children with disabilities within the general program, using the general curriculum. In many school districts, general physical educators receive support from adapted physical education (APE) specialists who function as consultants. It is critical that general physical educators gain the skills and knowledge required to maximize the support they receive.

The adapted physical educators who helped draft Public Law 94-142--the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)--never intended for all children with special education needs to receive their physical education instruction within the general program (D. Auxter &J. Pyfer, personal communication, February, 2001). It was, rather, litigation (Greer v. Rome City, 1991; Oberti v. Board of Education of Clementon School District, 1993; Sacramento City Unified School District v. Rachel, 1994; Hartman v. Loudoun County Board of Education, 1996), and increasing parental and administrative pressure for "inclusion" that led to the emphasis on education within the general program, codified in the 1997 reauthorization of the IDEA.

Regardless of their origins, demands that students with disabilities receive at least a part of their education within the general program have a substantial impact on general physical educators (U.S. Department of Education, 1997). Decker and Jansma (1995) found that the vast majority of students with disabilities receive their physical education services in the general physical education program. In order to meet these demands, general physical educators must possess strategies and techniques for maximizing the use of APE consultants.

Like most general physical educators, APE consultants typically carry a large caseload and struggle to provide services that meet the needs of the children served. It is not unusual for itinerant APE consultants in large urban schools to have caseloads in excess of 300 children and for those in rural areas to serve children in several counties covering hundreds of square miles.

Luckily, there are strategies that general physical educators can adopt to ensure their children's placement at the top of the consultant's priority list for services. At the core of these strategies is a simple understanding of human relationships. Griffin (2000) wrote, "Today we have access to vast amounts of information, and we can exchange it electronically--almost instantly--but fundamentally people still work with people. Not until you get two people together does any business get done." Adapted physical education consultants--like general physical educators--are torn to meet the excessive demands made daily on their talent and time. General physical educators who help meet the basic human needs of their APE consultant are more likely to receive constant, quality services from that professional than those who ignore those needs.

One human need arises from the sense of professional isolation and disenfranchisement that APE consultants can experience. Often using their car as an "office," consultants lack the vital sense of belonging that professionals working in a particular school experience. Individual schools and, occasionally, even factions within a school (such as special educators), possess a unique "culture." It is difficult for an individual who works outside of a given culture to understand, empathize, and function within that carefully constructed culture (Grugulis, Dundon, & Wilkinson, 2000). General physical educators who address their APE consultant's need to feel "at home"--a part of the existing school culture--are inviting the best possible services for their children. When a choice must be made, the APE consultant will be more likely to focus efforts at a school in which he or she feels "at home." Some simple, yet effective, strategies for making the APE consultant feel "at home" and valued appear in table 1. …