What Is Adaptive Physical Education?

Adaptive Physical Education (APE) is a direct service that can be provided to a special needs child, should the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) or the Committee on Special Education (CSE) determine that the child is in need of such service. In many cases, if a child is identified as visually impaired, physically handicapped, severely multiply impaired, or other health impaired, he or she will be warranted APE services.

Adaptive Physical Education (APE) is an adapted, or modified, physical education program designed to meet the individualized gross motor needs, or other disability-related challenges, of an identified student. The program can be provided one-on-one, in a small group, or within the general physical education setting. The APE instructor needs to be trained in assessing and working with special needs children. Lesson plans, rubrics, and worksheets need to be adapted for the needs of the children.

The need for Adaptive Physical Education (APE) is determined by the CPSE or CSE. The APE instructor assesses the child and presents the information to the committee. The assessment must include diagnostic and curriculum-based data, observations, and input by the child's general physical education teacher. If the child is receiving OT, PT or Vision Therapy (VT), then input should be obtained by these providers as well.

Based on the assessment and any other information provided by committee members, the committee determines whether or not APE services are needed. If the committee recommends such services, then APE becomes a part of the child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The plan must include the assessment information, the amount of APE to be received, whether or not the child will be in the general physical education setting, and goals with measurable objectives/benchmarks.

It's important to note that APE should not be viewed as a related service. Because physical education is federally mandated for all students, the APE teacher is a direct service provider. The APE teacher is to provide adaptations or modifications that will allow the special needs child to participate in age-appropriate physical educational activities. Adaptations or modifications can be made in four areas:

1. Instruction. Rules, lesson plans, strategies, etc. can be modified or included to help the child be successful in physical education. For example, a down's syndrome child may respond to one word signs as reminders for doing a summersault correctly.

2. Rules. A rule can be adapted or changed if it allows the special needs child to be successful. For example, if the students are working on volley ball skills, a wheelchair bound student is allowed to serve the volley ball from four feet ahead of the serving line.

3. Equipment. Standard gym equipment can be replaced with other objects that vary in shape, color, size, etc. For example, when playing kickball, provide a large bright orange ball for a visually impaired child to kick.

4. Environment. If need be, change the size of the playing area or use tape to define the area. For example, if the general education students are pitching softballs back and forth, work with a severely mentally handicapped child on rolling a ball back and forth by starting out being two feet apart and gradually increasing the space.

For some special needs students, Adaptive Physical Education may be needed every school year. For other students, as they continue to make gains with their gross motor skills, APE services might be tapered back and at some point no longer needed. APE students need to be encouraged to do their best. Programs, such as the Special Olympics, have provided a wonderful and positive opportunity for APE students to experience competing just like their non-disabled peers.

Adaptive Physical Education For Teachers

  1. Adapted PE: Frequently Asked Questions
  2. Adaptive Aerobics
  3. Palaestra: Forum of Sport, Physical Education and Recreation for those with Disabilities