How to Include Kids with Disabilities in Physical Education – LIFESTYLE BY PS icon

How to Include Kids with Disabilities in Physical Education

Physical education (PE) class is an important part of any child's school curriculum. It provides opportunities for physical activity, developing motor skills, learning about health and fitness, and building social skills through play and teamwork. However, children with disabilities may face greater challenges in PE class compared to their typically developing peers. As an educator, it's essential to make PE as inclusive as possible so all students can participate and benefit. Here are some tips on including kids with disabilities in physical education.

Provide Adaptive Equipment

Having the right adaptive equipment on hand enables students with disabilities to participate in PE activities. Things like oversized balls, beeping balls, visual cues, and seated exercise equipment allow kids with vision or mobility impairments to join in. Consult with occupational therapists or special educators on recommendations for equipment based on each child's needs. Also, teach PE teachers how to use the adaptive gear properly.

Modify Activities 

Rather than excluding kids from certain games and sports, consider how to modify the activities to make them more accessible. For instance, use a beach ball in volleyball for easier hitting or lower basketball hoops for wheelchair users. Allow sitting during activities that require standing. Have peers partner up with students who need assistance. Break skills into smaller steps for those who need more time to learn motor movements. Modify the rules, boundaries, and team sizes as needed. Focus on participation over competition.

Promote Social Inclusion

Children with disabilities are at higher risk for social isolation. PE teachers should facilitate relationship building by assigning peer buddies, mixing ability levels for team games, and arranging the class to allow for maximum peer interaction. They should set expectations for appropriate behavior and teach empathy and difference-acceptance. They should also lead by example in speaking to and about students with special needs. A socially inclusive environment enhances learning for all.

Offer Ongoing Teacher Training

Many PE teachers have limited training in adaptive physical education. Offer regular professional development on disability awareness, inclusive teaching strategies, and safety considerations. Physical education courses for teachers can help teach additional strategies for modifying curricula, using adaptive equipment, and building an inclusive class culture. Connect special education staff and PE teachers to align Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals with PE instruction. Stay up to date on best practices for inclusive fitness education.

Set Goals and Track Progress

Setting individualized goals for each student can help track their progress in PE class. Goals may focus on improving motor skills, physical fitness, learning rules of games, teamwork skills, etc. Share these goals with the student and update them regularly. Adapt goals as needed based on how the student responds. Data tracking and goal review meetings allow you to monitor student growth and make adjustments. Communicate frequently with parents about their child’s PE goals and achievements. Make sure support staff like occupational therapists have input into goal-setting. With measurable goals in place, students with disabilities can track their improvement.

A thoughtfully inclusive PE program enables kids of all abilities to reap physical education's developmental, social, and fitness benefits. With modifications, thoughtful planning, and teacher training, school PE programs can successfully include children with disabilities alongside their typically developing peers.