Connecting the GPE and APE Curricula for Students with Mild and Moderate Disabilities: Each Student Should Be Able to Reach the Top of His or Her Own Learning Pyramid

Article excerpt

"Laura is 10 years old and has an intellectual disability (IQ = 60). She is in fourth m grade and has been included in general physical education (GPE) for the past four m years, tier parents are meeting with her physical education teacher, Ms. Badger, regarding some questions they have about physical education. They explain to Ms. Badger that they recently tried to enroll their daughter in the local youth soccer program primarily so she could play with the other kids in the neighborhood, but also because she was starting to become overweight. However, after the second practice, the coach expressed concern about Laura's safety on the team. He made it clear that he did not have a problem having Laura on the team, but was worried that she was going to get hurt because of her poor motor skills. He acknowledged that the other players understood that Laura was not as skilled, but when they play at full speed Laura just cannot move fast enough to avoid running into other players or react quickly enough to protect herself from the ball. The parents want to know why Laura cannot run and kick the ball like the other students, particularly since she has received a "satisfactory" grade in physical education every year for the past four years. They acknowledge that Laura likes physical education and that she often mentions how nice Ms. Badger is and how she changes the games so she can play. However, Laura does not appear to be able to run, kick, throw, or catch any better now than she did in kindergarten.

The Problem

How would you respond to these parents, and could this scenario apply to some students with disabilities that are included in your GPE program? The challenge here is to adapt the GPE curriculum to address the needs of the students with disabilities. To understand this issue, we need to start by examining the GPE curriculum and analyze why Laura is not mastering the content so that she can play recreational soccer. Figure 1 shows a conceptual diagram of a GPE curriculum (Kelly & Melograno, 2004) where the content is based on the needs of students without disabilities. In the GPE pyramid, body management and fundamental motor skills are learned first. These are then combined to learn lead-up games and sports. Students ultimately leave the program (i.e., the top of the pyramid) with functional competency in a number of team and lifetime sports so that they can maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. Research has consistently shown that while students with intellectual disabilities, like Laura, are generally delayed in their fitness and motor-skill development, they can learn and master fundamental motor skills such as running, kicking, and throwing (Brace, 1968; Corder, 1966; Eichstaedt, Wang, Polacek, & Dohrmann, 1991; Malpass, 1960; Rarick, Dobbins, & Broadhead, 1976; Sugden, & Keogh, 1990).

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The problem is that there is not enough time in the GPE program for Laura to learn these skills, because the amount of content to be covered is based on the abilities and learning rates of students without disabilities. Many students with disabilities enter the GPE curriculum developmentally behind and learn at a slower rate. It should be noted that this problem may also apply to other students in the GPE program who have not been identified as special education students. If the amount of time allocated for physical education each year is held constant for all students, which typically is the case, then students like Laura are destined to fail in GPE. For example, if Laura starts school two years behind in her motor development and then learns at half the rate of her peers in GPE due to her intellectual disability (Krebs, 2005), she would only be able to learn approximately half as much content as the other students in the same amount of time. If this is not understood and no adjustments are made to the curriculum, Laura will be exposed to too much content with not enough time to master any of it. …