Participating in sports is a dream that many children have. Unfortunately, some children with disabilities are unable to get involved in some sports because of motor deficits. While early intervention and services will help many children, it does not fix everything for many children. Students of all ages may continue to receive physical and occupational therapy sessions within the school day. This time allows them to work on skills that are needed to help them be safe and do work within an academic day.
Physical and occupational therapy do not typically assist with kids being able to ride a two-wheeler, catch a baseball, or score a goal in soccer. For many kids, these are important milestones that they watch their friends and peers accomplish. When kids participate in physical education classes with other classmates, they often feel isolated. Many of these kids are selected to be on a team last because they are different or unable to work their bodies in the ways other children do. In addition to this, extracurricular sports are often an option they must avoid because of motor deficits.
One way to assist with this is for schools to implement an adapted physical education program. What is an adapted physical education program? It is physical education that is individualized and specially designed to address the needs of students with disabilities who require adaptations or modifications to be physically active, safely participate, and show progress. Adapted physical education programs also follow the least restrictive environment principle like other special education services. This means that when an IEP team is working on a plan for a child, it should start with participating in a general physical education class when possible.
These programs exist in some areas but are not widely used. Many times, a separate smaller area is used for the child. Physical education teachers are now able to work with therapists and special education teachers to adjust their lessons to make it more inclusive for all students within the gym classes. Many upper grades are working on a variety of activities at one time so all students may pick something that will work for their abilities, not singling out those with disabilities.
In addition to this, schools need to be aware of programs within the community to suggest to students. Many regions have programs like Stride Adaptive Sports in Upstate New York. Stride has programs at different times of year where they focus on a given sport. These community partnerships are in many locations where they have volunteers that will work with children to help them and give opportunities that they may not otherwise experience because of their given disability.