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Adaptive Physical Education

Adapted physical education (APE) 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, participate safely, and make progress toward National and Maryland’s Academic Standards for Health, Safety, and Physical Education.

Adapted physical education follows the same principle of least restrictive environment (LRE) as all other special education services. This means that the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team should consider the full array of delivery options, beginning with participation in the general physical education class.

For all practical purposes, Adapted Physical Education IS developmentally appropriate physical education at its finest.  It involves differentiating instruction so the physical activity is as appropriate for the student with a disability as it is for the student without a disability. 

Eligibility Criteria for Adapted Physical Education Services

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR) recommend that students be considered eligible for adapted physical education services if their comprehensive score is 1.5 standard deviations below the mean on a norm-referenced test, or at least two years below age level on criterion-referenced tests or other tests of physical and motor fitness. Those tests include, but are not limited to, fundamental motor skills and patterns, and skills in aquatics, dance, individual games, group games and/or sports.

This position statement aims to help teachers, school administrators, local education agencies (LEA) and parents determine when it’s appropriate to deliver special education services to a child in physical education and to appreciate the continuum of placements and services to consider when providing this instruction.

Federal legislation (i.e., the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) considers students eligible for special education, including physical education, if they are identified as having one of the 14 disabilities named in the law.

Federal Legislation

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Public Law 108-466 (2004), states that physical education is a required service for children and youth between the ages of 3-21 who qualify for special education services because of a specific disability or developmental delay.

The federal law (PL 94-142, PL 101-476, PL 105-17, PL 108-446) mandates the following in regards to physical education and students with disabilities:

§300.26 Special education

(1) As used in this part, the term special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including-
(i) Instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and
(ii) Instruction in physical education.

(2) The term includes each of the following, if it meets the requirements of paragraph (a)(1) of this section:

Physical education-
(i) Means the development of-
(A) Physical and motor fitness;
(B) Fundamental motor skills and patterns; and
(C) Skills in aquatics, dance, and individual and group games and sports (including intramural an lifetime sports); and
(ii) Includes special physical education, adapted physical education, movement education, and motor development.
(3) Specially-designed instruction Means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child under this part, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction-
(i) To address the unique needs of the child that result from the child's disability; and
(ii) To ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that he or she can meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the public agency that apply to all children.

Physical education services, specially designed if necessary, must be made available to every child with a disability receiving Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

Regular physical education.
Each child with a disability must be afforded the opportunity to participate in the regular physical education program available to nondisabled children unless-                                                                     

(1) The child is enrolled full time in a separate facility; or
(2) The child needs specially designed physical education, as prescribed in the child's IEP.

Special physical education.
If specially designed physical education is prescribed in a child's IEP, the public agency responsible for the education of that child shall provide the services directly or make arrangements for those services to be provided through other public or private programs.

Education in separate facilities.
The public agency responsible for the education of a child with a disability who is enrolled in a separate facility shall ensure that the child receives appropriate physical education services in compliance with paragraphs (a) and (c) of this section.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(25), 1412(a)(5)(A))

IDEA 2004 provides for the changes in the following categories: alternate assessments, attorney’s fees, discipline, enforcement, funding, highly qualified teachers, and paperwork and meetings. For additional information look at the following websites:

Organizational Structure for Adapted Physical Education

Crucial to the organization and administration of the Adapted Physical Education Program is a documented process for delivery of appropriate services.  This program guide gives a description of five areas of concern related to the Adapted Physical Education Program.  These areas include:

  I. Student Needs

II.      Referral/Entry Criteria

III.    Placement Criteria

IV.    Outcomes/Adaptations

V.     Assessment/Exit Criteria

II.    Referral/Entry Criteria

A.    A student’s eligibility for Adapted Physical Education service is determined by the following factors inclusively:

               1.  The identification of a disability by the IEP team.

2.  Determination by the IEP team to assess the student’s need for APE.

3.  Assessment results verify the need for APE.

4.  Identify Present Level of Performance PLOP

5.  The development of IEP goals and objectives describing the student’s motor needs.

6.  The recommendation of the IEP Team for Adapted Physical Education and the learning environment in which

     the IEP will be implemented.

III. Placement Criteria

To the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities are educated with their age-appropriate peers in the least restrictive environment.  The removal of students with disabilities from the general physical education environment occurs only when the nature and severity of the disability is such that education in general classes, with the use of supplementary aids and services, cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

Possible IEP Team options include:

                              ·      Inclusion in general physical education class

                              ·      Inclusion in general physical education class with modifications, such as assistance by a peer helper or paraeducator; variations in instructional strategies (i.e., behavior charts, communication systems, PECKS board); or modified equipment

For more information about Adapted Physical Education, please contact:

Anna Routzahn

Coordinator for Adapted Physical Education & Corollary Sports

(301)475-5511 ext 32121                                          

Helpful Website Links

APENS: Adapted Physical Education National Standards

SHAPE America