The Art Of Adaptive Physical Education

The Art Of Adaptive Physical Education

Many people hear the word Adaptive Physical Education (PE) but do not totally grasp what that means.

Adaptive Physical Education is the science of creating, implementing, and monitoring a carefully designed instructional program for students with disabilities.

This is a term that is commonly used in schools for students ages 3-21. Adaptive PE is required by the federal law IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and has to be addressed in the student’s IEP if necessary.

Not all students with disabilities need adaptive PE.

When adaptive physical education is needed, the teacher is considered the direct service provider, not the related service provider. This teacher should be trained so they can assess the student and then develop, implement, and adapt (as needed) specialized physical education in the motor domains.

The teacher is responsible for providing this program one-on-one, in a small group, or within the general physical education setting. Training is needed in order to assess and work with students with disabilities accurately. The lesson plans, rubrics, and assignments also have to be modified and adapted for the students as well.

When making adaptations/modifications, it is important to make sure the student’s needs are being addressed. This can be completed through assessments. Once that information is obtained, the adaptations/modifications are made in four areas:


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4 Areas Of Adaptive Physical Education;


Review rules and strategies used and how to modify to help the students be successful in the PE environment.


Rules have to be established for all of the activities involved in PE. These specific rules will have to change in order for a student with a disability to be successful.


Standard gym equipment is not always best suited for adaptive PE. The equipment can be replaced with other material that can vary in texture, color, size, etc. to meet the individual needs of the students.


While dealing with the environmental aspect of adaptive PE, it is important to inspect and change the area if needed. This can involve changing the size of the are or using tape to define the area.

If the student has adaptive PE, it needs to be revisited each year during the annual review of the IEP. This way the IEP team is aware of the progress or lack of progress that is being made.

Some students may need this every year while others may not. This will be based on the students’ gains in their gross motor skills. For students who are making gains, services could possibly be scaled back and at some point, may no longer be needed.

If adaptive PE is no longer needed, it is good practice to suggest other supplemental programs such as Special Olympics for the students to be involved in. This way the student is still staying active while having opportunities to compete in a variety of sports.

Adaptive Physical Education is beneficial for students with disabilities. The students can access the general education curriculum while receiving supports that allow them to participate in physical education actively. This allows them to focus on their overall physical health as well as their mental health.

Does your child receive Adaptive Physical Education? If so, please comment with your experience below!



Amanda Wagoner, MAT

Amanda Wagoner, MAT

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