The Physical Part of Education

By McNealus, Kristin | The Exceptional Parent, September 2016 | Go to article overview

The Physical Part of Education


McNealus, Kristin, The Exceptional Parent


In 1990, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed, requiring that all people with disabilities, of school age, have access to Physical Education in a normal school environment.

Does your child participate in physical education consistently? Do you know what your child is doing in those classes? And why this is as important as any other subject in school?

Adapted physical education is PE that is adapted or modified for your child's needs. It is meant to meet the needs of any child with a disability in the same way a general PE class meets the needs of children without disabilities. Physical education is an important part of schooling, and it encourages the development of physical and motor skills. Children need to practice fundamental skills such as throwing and catching, as well as dancing and swimming. Gym class also provides an environment for students to work as a group, and further develop communication and teamwork skills. (See the chart of benefits below, courtesy Flixercise.com)

The physical education class is part of your child's education plan; it is separate from any physical or occupation that s/he receives (even if that therapy is performed in the school.) Another goal is to develop skills for a lifetime of physical fitness and wellness that lasts well beyond school years.

There is a federal law that mandates physical education be provided for students with disabilities. In 1990, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed, requiring that all people with disabilities, of school age, have access to Physical Education in a normal school environment. This was a great leap forward, however, it is left to each State to define what "Adapted Physical Education" means with respect to complying with the legislation. You will have to look at your state's policy. This is why you may want to start asking more questions about your child's gym class.

Not every child looks forward to PE class. But physical activity contributes substantially to a person's sense of well-being, thus Physical Education has long been a component of the American education system. It can help an individual develop improved body awareness.

Physical fitness also denotes a reduction in health risks that may occur in adulthood as a result of physical inactivity, including such conditions as coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, low stamina, type II diabetes, osteoporosis, low back pain and depression. Developing exercise habits early is important for all children, especially screen time increases. During the latter half of the last century, society realized that individuals with disabilities required a different approach to Physical Education. It was no longer acceptable to exclude these children from this portion of their schooling.

There was also a shift in educating individuals who teach PE, realizing that they must also know how to address children with disabilities. The specialty of Adapted Physical Education emerged to address the needs of people with disabilities.

Physical education teachers have a bachelor's degree, and then they can choose to be certified in Adapted PE. Currently, only 14 states have a specific certification program. Do not be alarmed if you reside in one of the other 36 states and you learn that your child's teacher is not certified. However, you may wish to ask your children's PE teachers what sort of training they have sought out in order to better understand how to work with children with various disabilities.

Do not be afraid to reach out to your child's teacher. You certainly know your child better than anyone else, and giving advice about what works best as far as communication techniques, anything your child absolutely does not like or cannot do, etc. …

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