Academic journal article Education

The Influence of Daily Structured Physical Activity on Academic Progress of Elementary Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Academic journal article Education

The Influence of Daily Structured Physical Activity on Academic Progress of Elementary Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Article excerpt

In recent years, conclusive evidence has indicated that physical activity in school-aged children can not only have a positive impact on health-related areas of need (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), 2010; Pate, Davis, Robinson, Stone, McKenzie, & Young, 2006), but also in the improvement of academic achievement of PK-12 students (CDCP, 2010; Castelli, Hillman, Buck, & Erwin, 2007; Chomitz, Slining, McGowan, Mitchell, Dawson, & Hacker, 2009; Dwyer, Sallis, Blizzard, Lazarus, & Dean, 2001; Grissom, 2005; Hillman, Castelli, & Buck, 2005; Martin, & Chalmers, 2007; Shephard, 1997; Tremblay, Inman, & Williams, 2000; Wittberg, Cottrell, & Northrup, 2009). Additionally, research has found the positive link between structured school physical education with improving academic performance (Carlson, Fulton, Lee, Maynard, Brown, Kohl, et al., 2008; Coe, Pivarnik, Womack, Reeves, & Malina, 2006; Sallis, et al., 1999; Trudeau & Shephard, 2008). The role of physical activity not only benefits school-aged children in regular classrooms, but has been found to play a pivotal role in improving the health in individuals with developmental disabilities (Horvat & Franklin, 2001; Winnick, 2011). Although research on physical activity of individuals with disabilities is scarce, findings by recent research (Faison-Hodge, & Poretta, 2004; Longmuir & Bar-Or, 2000; Pittetti, Beets, and Combs (2009) revealed that children in their study engaged in more than the recommended amounts of physical activity for the general population. The current recommendation for school-aged children is for them to accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) each day (Strong, Malina, & Blimkie, et al., 2005; Pate, Yancey, & Kraus, 2010). Participants with intellectual disabilities in the described study above (Pittetti, Beets, &Combs, 2009) averaged 83.5 minutes per day, well above the recommended amount. In their conclusions, the authors suggest school physical education can play a major role in providing opportunities for students with disabilities to engage in appropriate amounts of physical activity.

Because of the need to provide opportunities for school-aged children with disabilities to engage in appropriate amounts and types of physical activity, structured adapted physical education classes have been recommended to provide this opportunity (Pitetti, Beets, & Combs, 2009). It is possible that the provision of regular amounts of structured physical activity may also help students with developmental disabilities progress academically as well. This possibility is most likely due to a variety of factors, including the environment, brain function, and other physiologically related factors. Environmental factors often inhibit the cognitive processing of children with developmental disabilities. As a result of these factors, professionals in the special education field search for strategies and tools to counterbalance these inhibitions so that information can be learned more easily (Schunk, 2008; Shuell, 1986). Exploring this phenomenon, a group of theoretical perspectives called the "Cognitive Information Processing Theory" has been developed. Within these theoretical perspectives is a system that focuses more on internal processes rather than the eternal conditions that inhibit learning. One of the common assumptions is that cognitive processing occurs in stages that begin with input, involves senses and conclude with working and long-term memory.

With this processing series of stages comes a focus on attention. One theory suggests that incoming information from the environment is stored briefly in a sensory system. The Filter Theory suggests that attention to input is selective because only some messages were able to get through. Whether a learner turns down messages (Trieisman, 1964) rather than blocking them out, the learner is affected by external stimuli prevent learners from being attentive (Norman, 1976), it is apparent that a need exists to control stimuli (Grabe, 1986) and find ways to enable learners to have a focused attention during learning tasks. …

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