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Running head: Adapted Physical Education CLONTZ

Diversity Essay: Adapted Physical Education

Vanessa Clontz

Bridgewater College


Adapted Physical Education can provide numerous benefits for students with exceptionalities. These benefits can include both physical and mental aspects. In order to provide and Adapted Physical Education program that is successful you must ensure that the environment in inclusive and least restrictive. Physical education teachers can learn from peoples past experiences in order to improve the physical education program so that it is adaptive for students with special needs and disabilities.

Diversity Essay: Adapted Physical Education

“PE class is where students have a chance to learn the importance of an active lifestyle and advance their physical skills” (Klein & Hollingshead, 2015). This is particularly important for those students with disabilities because physical education can help assist in the development of the students’ three critical learning areas. The three areas include cognitive, psychomotor, and affective. According to the Adaptive Physical Education National Standards (APENS), “Adapted Physical Education is physical education which has been adapted or modified, so that it is as appropriate for the person with a disability as it is for a person without a disability” (What is Adaptive PE?, 2008). Adapted Physical Education falls into the theme of Exceptionalities within our class topics based on Classroom Diversity and Multicultural Education. People identified as having exceptionalities are those individuals who have disabilities and/or are gifted and talented. Exceptional children are young individuals “who experience difficulties in learning as well as those whose performance is so superior that modifications in curriculum and instruction are necessary to help them fulfill their potential” (Gollnick & Chinn, 2013). Adapted Physical Education caters to those students with physical, mental, and/or emotional disabilities. Disabilities included within the Adapted Physical Education program are Autism, deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, orthopedic impairment, serious emotional disturbance, traumatic brain injury, etc. Adapted Physical Education provides numerous mental, emotional, and physical benefits to those individuals with disabilities. In order to provide these benefits the environment of the classroom should be inclusive and least restrictive. I chose to research this topic because I am already involved in Special Olympics and want to further enhance my knowledge and learn more about the logistics of Special Education in Physical Education. I am also interested in finding out what individuals thought about their experiences in Adapted PE and how their experiences can improve the development of future Adapted Physical Education programs.

Adapted Physical Education assists in the development of cognitive, psychomotor, and affective areas of a person with disabilities. Some people with disabilities often lack skills from these three areas. For example, someone with a traumatic brain injury may lack skills from the cognitive area. Some of these skills may include, but are not limited to, perception, memory, judgement, and reasoning. A student who has Cerebral Palsy may have some difficulty with their psychomotor skills. Finally, students with any type of disability may lack skills in the affective area, such as motivation and willingness to participate. According to the Speech and Language Development Center, the following activities can help students with disabilities enhance their skills in the areas described above.

  • “Body Awareness – Spatial Awareness and Balance,

  • Locomotor Movements – The basic patterns used to travel (walking, running, leaping, hopping, jumping, galloping, sliding, and skipping.),

  • Object Control – Eye, hand, and foot coordination and manipulative skills (i.e., soccer, racquet sports and basketball.),

  • Perceptual Motor – Any ability or capacity involving the interaction of perception and voluntary movement, typical examples being the ability to play a ball game,

  • Physical Fitness,

  • Sport and game skills (i.e., rules, teamwork, turn taking, cooperation.),

  • Object Control – Eye, hand, and foot coordination and manipulative skills (i.e., soccer, racquet sports and basketball.),

  • Recreational Activities – bocce ball, bowling, and shuffle board, etc.” (Adaptive Physical Education, 2012).

From research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), individuals who have disabilities are at an even greater risk for developing other health complications (Klein & Hollingshead, 2015). Exercise and staying active have shown to provide multiple benefits for those individuals with mental and physical disabilities in order to live a healthier lifestyle and prevent other health complications from occurring. According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASP), these benefits include “increasing blood to the brain, increasing mental alertness, and helping to maintain a positive attitude” (Klein & Hollingshead, 2015). Within these concepts of benefits, physical activity can help raise one’s self-esteem and reduce their chance for developing anxiety and depression. Engaging in Physical Education will ultimately benefit these students with special needs.

Most students who have special needs are already excluded from the majority of general education classrooms. Often times, special education programs have either their own secluded classroom or their own wing to the school facility. In past years, Adapted Physical Education was similar in the way that the students were isolated from the rest of the student body. Recently, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) has mandated that all students should be taught in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Least restrictive environment is defined as:

“The educational setting closest to a regular school or general education setting in which the child with a disability can be educated. For many children, this may mean a general education classroom. Others may require a less inclusive setting to best meet their needs” (Gollnick & Chinn, 2013).

In order to accommodate for students to be educated in the least restrictive environment, students with special needs should be included into general physical education classes. Although, Adapted Physical Education does not always mean that the students with special needs are fully included. The difference between inclusion and full inclusion is that students with disabilities who are fully included into general education classes do not go to any special education classes, while students who take part inclusion go to some general education classes and some special education classes. A physical education classroom who participates in inclusion would be described as a general education class including students with specials needs and disabilities. For the students who need assistance for certain skills and/or activities the lesson would be modified and adapted based on their own needs. However, for the majority of the time, the students with special needs will participate in all games and activities with the rest of the students in the general physical education class. The adaptation for each student’s special needs is what makes the program Adapted Physical Education. (Guidelines, 2014) Furthermore, in order for students with disabilities to benefit from Adapted Physical Education, and all the health benefits that come with it, students must be included into general education classrooms and be instructed in the least restrictive environment.

To further enhance my knowledge of what physical education looked like in the past for those students with disabilities, I did some research on what students with disabilities experienced in their own physical education classes. In this next paragraph, I will be discussing the stories I read about, and how I plan to manage my physical education classes in order to avoid the following issues. Mary, age 13, shares her experiences in physical education while being physically handicapped and in a wheel chair. She states “I just sit there, cold and bored, wondering why I’m there. No one seems to notice me; not the teacher, not the others; it’s like I’m invisible. They just play around me, until I get in the way” (Fitzgerald & Stride, 2012). As an aspiring physical education teacher, for my student who may be confined to a wheel chair, I would create lesson plans that would provide activities in which the student could always participate and enjoy the activity, during every class period, just as much as the other students. Adam, age 12, with a physical disability involving his legs describes his feeling of dissatisfaction with his PE grade. He shares that his PE grade is always significantly lower than his brothers’, and the he feels like he tries his best to keep up with everyone else in the class but that his grades do not reflect his amount of effort he puts in just to keep up with everyone else (Fitzgerald & Stride, 2012). In terms of Adam’s situation, I would recognize his effort and adjust and modify his grade based on how much he participates and his effort based on his abilities. Unfortunately, these types of stories are too often found in physical education involving students with disabilities. I chose to share these stories in order to explain how there is a need for a change in the environment of physical education. Also, I felt it was important to read the students perspectives of their experiences in order to develop my own physical education program that is multicultural and appropriately adaptive for students with disabilities. I plan to keep ahold of these stories for when I become a full time physical education teacher so that I can remember what not to do and know how I can improve my lesson plans so that it is inclusive for all students. These stories are the reasons why Adapted Physical Education Programs should be more prevalent in the school systems today.

All in all, Adaptive Physical Education can provide many health benefits for students with exceptionalities. Whether it’s developing new motor skills or increasing their levels of confidence and self-esteem. Although, in order for these students to fully benefit from the activities the environment of the class should be inclusive and least restrictive. From the stories I have read and the information I have gathered from my research for this essay, I believe that collectively it will help influence the way I instruct my students with special needs as I begin my career as an educator. The topic of Adapted Physical Education relates to multicultural education in the way that students with special needs will be incorporated into classes with general education students. In order to create a positive multicultural education environment, physical education teachers should encourage all students to include those students who have special needs in all groups and activities. As a Physical Education teacher I need to be aware of my students’ abilities and needs in order accommodate for safety reasons and to maximize participation and development.

Word Count: 1,613


Adapted Physical Education. (2012, September 10). Retrieved April 30, 2015, from education/?gclid=CPbButX0nsUCFUMV7AodxUsANA.

André, A., Louvet, B., & Deneuve, P. (2013). Cooperative group, risk-taking and inclusion of pupils with learning disabilities in physical education. British Educational Research Journal, 39(4), 677-693. doi:10.1080/01411926.2012.674102.

Fitzgerald, H., & Stride, A. (2012). Stories about Physical Education from Young People with Disabilities. International Journal Of Disability, Development & Education, 59(3), 283- 293. doi:10.1080/1034912X.2012.697743.

Gollnick, D., & Chinn, P. (2013). Multicultural Education in a Pluralistic Society (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Guidelines for Adapted Physical Education. (2014, July 22). Retrieved April 30, 2015, from

Klein, E., & Hollingshead, A. (2015). Collaboration Between Special and Physical Education: The Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle for All Students. Teaching Exceptional Children, 47(3), 163-171. doi:10.1177/0040059914558945.

What is Adapted Physical Education? (2008). Retrieved April 7, 2015, from
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