Yes! Physical Education Is a Direct Service
Corwith-Frieden, Debra, Palaestra
I applaud the editorial, Is Physical Education a Direct or Related Educational Service? seen in the Winter (13:1) issue of Palaestra. As a retired special education teacher for students with disabilities, a lifelong adapted aquatics specialist, and the sibling of someone with disabilities, I have experienced the many challenges of ensuring direct physical education services for persons with disabilities.
Prior to inclusion and LRE philosophy taking hold, I taught aquatics for eight years at a school for students with multiple disabilities, ages three to twenty-two, from 1983 to 1991. Everyone had opportunities with IEPs to participate in Beginner, Advanced Beginner, and Intermediate Red Cross classes (now Levels One through Four), aquacise, aquafitness, lap swimming, recreational games, relays, sports events, water adjustment, and therapy. The physical education program not only included aquatics, but also every imaginable standard sport from basketball, volleyball, baseball, etc., to ice skating, skiing, golf, bowling, weight lifting, and more; and, was taught by certified adapted physical education instructors. Moreover, this program extended into extracurricular community events such as cheerleading, dance, team sports, Special Olympics, the Presidential Fitness Mile Lap Swim for Special Populations, and many other community activities. Students achieved the benefits of personal success and fitness, as well as improving educational skills in other domains such as language, counting, directionality/spatiality, social behavior, safety, and more through physical education.
In addition, one of the most positive aspects of this physical education program was that students with more severe physical, mental, and behavioral challenges had abundant opportunities to attain levels of independence by developing skills according to individual potential ability. And, because students received consistent, long term, direct physical education classes year after year, many independent skills emerged, developed, were internalized, and achieved.
How many students with disabilities currently in a least restrictive environmental placement in the public schools now receive the direct physical education service described here?
When I became a teacher for students with multiple disabilities in a traditional public school, there were no physical education services, let alone adapted physical education classes (or swimming). Although other students in the third and fifth grades received swimming regularly at the district pool next door, my students were denied permission, in spite of the fact that I was a currently certified and experienced adapted aquatics specialist. Moreover, transportation was not a logistical issue. The two teachers of the multihandicapped classes had to negotiate (beg) to obtain gym time, which we succeeded in doing during the physical education teacher's lunch period. We were then responsible for all physical education instruction and for improvising with what equipment we could. …
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Publication information: Article title: Yes! Physical Education Is a Direct Service. Contributors: Corwith-Frieden, Debra - Author. Magazine title: Palaestra. Volume: 13. Issue: 3 Publication date: Summer 1997. Page number: 8+. © 1999 Challenge Publications Limited. COPYRIGHT 1997 Gale Group.
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