by Rynette R. Kjesbo, M.S., CCC-SLP
What Is Adapted P.E.?
Physical Education (P.E.) in school uses games, sports, and physical activities
to teach students about health and fitness, as well as help them develop their motor
(muscle movement) skills. Some students with disabilities may find it difficult
to participate in P.E. activities. For example, a student who has a physical handicap
and is in a wheelchair may not be able to participate in baseball with peers in
regular P.E. class. Adapted P.E. is an alternative to regular physical education—the
activities in adapted P.E. are “adapted” or modified to meet the needs of students
So that students with special needs may participate in games, sports, and physical
activities, adapted P.E. offers alternatives for participation. Students in adapted
P.E. may use different equipment, the rules for activities might be changed slightly,
P.E. services might be in a different location, or instructions may be given to
the student in a different way. For example, in adapted P.E., a student in a wheelchair
may be allowed to hit the baseball from a tee and classmates may have to wait eight
seconds before trying to tag the student out.
How Is Adapted P.E. Different from Physical Therapy?
Students are only eligible for physical therapy if they cannot learn without it.
For example, a student who has difficulty sitting due to a disability may need physical therapy in order to be able to sit in a classroom
and learn what the teacher is teaching. Physical education
is given to ALL students. Adapted P.E. gives students
with disabilities the chance to participate in the physical education programs that
all students participate in.
How Do Children Qualify for Adapted P.E. Services?
In order to qualify for adapted P.E. services, a student must receive an evaluation
to find out what kind of physical activities he/she may need help with. A qualified
professional who has training to understand the results of the evaluation and make
recommendations for services conducts the assessment. After the evaluation, the
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team (made up of parents, members of the evaluation
team, general education teachers, special education teachers, administrators, and/or
therapists) meets to discuss the results and service recommendations. If the IEP
team decides that adapted P.E. is necessary, they add goals to the IEP and the student
begins to receive services.
What Types of Services Are Available with Adapted P.E.?
The types of services available for students who are eligible for adapted P.E. vary
greatly. The adapted P.E. teacher might give the regular P.E. teacher suggestions
for changes to the rules, equipment, or instructions. The student may receive assistance
in the regular P.E. class. Or, the student may receive direct instruction from the
adapted P.E. teacher in a separate class that allows him/her to achieve success
with physical activities in a safe environment.