Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Adapted Physical Education in High School

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Adapted Physical Education in High School

Article excerpt

Adapted Physical Education (PE) has the same desired outcomes as a regular PE class. Both classes hope to improve physical condition, develop skills and knowledge in a variety of activities/games, develop skills in group interaction and promote the growth of other social skills. The student with special needs, however, would be at a significant disadvantage in a regular PE class because of the activity, size, competitiveness, or group dynamics of the class. In the adapted PE class, the focus is on age-appropriate activities but with adaptations to enhance the development of each student's skills. Another area that adapted PE addresses, especially at the high school level, is interaction with peers.

The technique for teaching adapted PE that I use for my students is a "peer-pal" approach. This works on the premise that doing age-appropriate activities is secondary to having age-appropriate peers. Having the students working with peers in their own age group (teenagers) is more important to socialization, particularly during adolescence. In a regular PE class, we develop not only the physical conditioning and skills for athletics and recreational play, but also many of the social skills that are necessary for successful interaction throughout our lives. The older the student and the more severe the disability, the further these social behaviors are delayed because of lack of participation and interaction with peers. If social behavior does not develop, the individual becomes more isolated. It is the development of socially acceptable behavior that is most critical to the advancement of the student, especially during adolescence.

My adapted PE class is a mix of physical activity and socialization. The class meets for 80 minutes every other day. 80 minutes is too long for non-stop exercise, so the class takes time out for talking and socializing with peers. We also go on bowling, ice-skating, and swimming trips to public settings outside school.

The ultimate goal of the adapted PE class is to have the students mainstreamed back into regular PE classes, which they would attend with a peer pal, who would provide emotional support and assistance with skills and other situations as needed. The student, after being mainstreamed into regular PE, would still be invited on the trips with the adapted PE class. …

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