Physical education is an integral part of our school education system. Research has also proven that physical education is necessary to develop motor skills and aid in a wellrounded development of a student. Physical education in schools gives students a chance to learn to work as a team, develop interpersonal relations and it also helps them release any kind of stress that they may be holding on to.
For differently-abled students (mental/physical), participating in a regular PE class along with other students may become a challenge altogether. That is when the idea of adapted physical education comes into play. Adapted physical education (APE) is the art and science of developing, implementing, and monitoring a carefully designed physical education instructional program for a learner with a disability, based on a comprehensive assessment, to give the learner the skills necessary for a lifetime of rich leisure, recreation, and sport experiences to enhance physical fitness and wellness.
In the United States, Federal law mandates that a child with disability should be provided physical education in the school along with special education services that he/she receives. Any student who may have autism, Deaf – Blindness, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, serious emotional disturbance, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury or visual impairment including blindness needs to be provided adaptive physical education for their development. APE services can be delivered in the general physical education setting or a self-contained one.
A child must first be assessed by a doctor for his/her weaknesses and strengths. Accordingly a physical training programme must be customised to adapt and accommodate the weaknesses and strengths. In India, parents try their level best to educate their child in a special school if they need it. However, physical education is not an aspect that is given enough importance whereas it is equally important. Adding an element of physical education can improve a child’s confidence and skill. It is also a good way to make friends and prevent exclusion. Classes needed to be well-organised and well-planned in an APE set up. There are seven class formats that are most commonly used in adapted physical education settings.
One-to-one instruction: one teacher or assistant for every student.
Small group: 3-10 students working together with a teacher or assistant.
Large group: entire class participating together as a group.
Mixed group: using various class formats within one class period.
Peer teaching or tutoring: using classmates or students without disabilities from other classes for teaching and assisting students with disabilities.
Teaching stations: several areas in which smaller subsets for the class rotate to practice skills.
Self-paced independent work: each student works on individual goals at his or her own pace following directions on task cards or with guidance from the teacher or assistant.
Teachers must find the best class format to help the student achieve the goals for the lesson.
Physical education teachers need to undergo special training to become an adaptive physical education teacher. They are trained to evaluate and assess motor competency, physical fitness, play, recreation, leisure, and sports skills. They are required to create a programme based on the findings of their assessment.
Teachers are trained to improve their knowledge of motor control for teaching physical education to students with disabilities. They improve their knowledge of developmental sequences and skill themselves in physical education techniques and procedures for developing individualized education programmes for physical education. Monitoring the progress of each student is also upto the APE teacher.
Methods adopted for specific disabilities
1. Intellectual disabilities: The primary change needed while teaching students with intellectual disabilities is to use shorter sentences, use less verbal instructions and more of gestures and demonstrations. Teachers need to make sure that the activity is made fun and not too serious. They need to give more trial chances to help the child get it right. Activities should be kept short to enable learning even with short attention spans. The play area needs to be structured and visually appealing to make it attractive to the student. For example, use a larger and brighter ball to make it easier to handle. And of course, the curriculum needs to adapt to reduce the number of objectives that need to be mastered.
2. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Students with ADHD may have motor delays and the teacher needs to work on reinforcing confidence and positive feedback is the way to do it. For this, teachers can implement a reward system where a student earns rewards by meeting a minimum expectation.
3. Autism spectrum disorder: It is important to understand student needs and preferences. It is possible that students can get very nervous and anxious during a physical education class. They need to be introduced into that environment with care. Students can also be introduced to the setting beforehand to reduce anxiety. They can be taken to the PE setting a few minutes earlier than the scheduled class to get acclimated to the environment. Peer tutors can also help improve the experience for a child with disability.
4. Hearing impaired: It is important to communicate using his/her preferred means of communication. Incorporate visual aids with easy to comprehend images while instructing. Repeat comments and make sure that the student has understood the instruction by getting him/her to repeat the action.
5. Visually impaired: It is important to give time to the blind player to walk around and understand his environment and be comfortable with it. They may need more instruction and time to master certain techniques and movements and patience is the key. With proper training, a blind player can participate in most sports and need not feel left out.
There is minimal awareness of APE in India. However, it is an important aspect that can be a life changing experience for a child with disability. It is important that parents and schools recognise the value of Adaptive Physical Education and make a positive step towards its implementation. It is time to usher in some change to make lives of students with disabilities a little better and improve their confidence in facing life on their own.
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