Physical Education for Children with Prader-Willi Syndrome

By Weber, Robert C. | Palaestra, Spring 1993 | Go to article overview

Physical Education for Children with Prader-Willi Syndrome


Weber, Robert C., Palaestra


Robert C. Weber is assistant professor of physical education at Texas Tech University. He is also coordinator of Adapted Physical Education Programs and sponsor for the wheelchair athletic club. In addition, he has been active with Special Olympics.

According to Public Law 94-142 (1975) all handicapped children are entitled to a free public education that meets their individual and unique needs, including physical education. Benefits of physical education for children with disabilities are widely documented in the literature (Cratty, 1989; Dunn & Fait, 1989; French & Jansma, 1982; Kalakian & Eichstaedt, 1982; Seaman & DePauw, 1989; Sherrill, 1986). Children with Prader-Willi syndrome have a need and can benefit from participating in physical exercise and leisure activity programs (Page, Stanley, Richman, Deal, & Iwata, 1983). Due to obesity and behavioral problems, children with Prader-Willi syndrome may seem disinterested in participating in physical education. Because of this apparent disinterest in physical activity and need for increased physical activity to control their weight, it is very important that these children have positive experiences in physical activities with friends, family members, and in various school programs. From results of recent studies, children with Prader-Willi syndrome can benefit from instruction in physical education and learn to enjoy physical activity (Weber & Miller, 1990; Weber, Bobo, Wolfe, & Robert, 1990).

During the past several years, the author has had the opportunity to work directly with several children with Prader-Willi syndrome. Due to a previous lack of research findings and information involving instructional methods for these children in physical education, the author has become actively involved with colleagues in research studies involving various physical fitness parameters and biomechanical analyses of gross motor skill performances of these individuals (Weber & Miller, 1990; Weber et. al., 1990). From these studies some key ideas have been developed that can be helpful to physical educators who teach students with Prader-Willi syndrome. To provide meaningful physical education experiences, physical educators should be knowledgeable about etiology, characteristics, teaching considerations, and suggested activities for the child with Prader-Willi syndrome.

Etiology

In 1956, Prader, Labhart, and Willi described a new syndrome which has characteristics of obesity, short growth, poor development of genitalia, and mental retardation, with deficiency in muscle tone in the neonatal period (Juul & Dupont, 1967). Since then what is commonly referred to as Prader-Willi syndrome has been reported in the literature under various titles such as Syndrome of Willi Prader (Royer, 1963); of Willi, Prader, and Labhart (Larbre, 1965); of Prader, Labhart, and Willi (Dunn, 1968); of Prader, Labhart, Willi, and Fanconi (Hooft, Delire, & Casneuf, 1966); and HHHO (Zellweger & Schneider, 1968).

This condition is considered to be very rare with Crnic, Sulzbacher, Snow, & Holm (1980) estimating an incidence of between 1 in 5,000 and 1 in 10,000 births. Cause of the syndrome has been traced to an abnormality, resulting in a deletion of chromosome 15 contributed by the father (Bonuccelli, Stette, Levitt, Levin, & Pyeritz, 1982; Butler & Palmer, 1983; Elder, Nichols, Hood, & Harrison, 1985; Fear, Mutton, Berry, Heckmatt, & Dubowitz, 1985; Kousseff, 1980; Ledbetter, Riccardi, Airhart, Strobel, Keenan, & Crawford, 1981; Ledbetter, Mascarello, Riccardi, Harper, Airhart & Strobel, 1982).

Characteristics

Prader-Will syndrome is characterized during infancy by hypotonia, weak cry, poor sucking, and failure to thrive (Berry, Whittingham & Neville, 1981; Brissenden & Levy, 1973). These infants are considered behaviorally and psychomotorically to be retarded, especially in regard to developmental milestones of ability to hold the head erect, sitting, walking, and talking (Foster, 1971; France, Beemer, & Ippel, 1984). …

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