Adapt the Activities
Students with physical disabilities may be able to do similar activities to their peers when they are mainstreamed into the regular PE class. It will depend on the extent of their physical disabilities, but one way PE teachers can work with students is by adapting activities. Teaching students with physical disabilities is possible with a little creativity. Here are some ways you can adapt common activities for students with physical disabilities.
- Weight and size of equipment: If the PE class is participating in a unit on baseball, students with disabilities may be able to use a whiffle ball and bat. For football, Nerf footballs can be used. Sometimes in soccer, the goal area for students with physical disabilities may have to be larger. For volleyball, students can use a beach ball. Some students without physical disabilities might also benefit from this equipment if they have difficulty with a sport. If students are given the choice to use different equipment, then the student with physical disabilities does not stand out.
- Change or modify rules: Teaching students with physical disabilities means you need to assess each situation and student separately. Students with physical disabilities want to play but they do not always want to be “the easy out” when they are mainstreamed into the PE classroom. With creativity, PE teachers can change the rules to help everyone. For example, all students can get one free kick or hit, depending on the sport. You could also allow students to get closer to the “pitcher” in a sport such as kickball or softball. You could let the student sit down for part of the game if that would help him to feel more comfortable or participate more fully.
When teaching students with physical disabilities, paraprofessionals can also help students when they are mainstreamed into the regular PE class. A paraprofessional can help students change clothes or shoes more quickly, assist with explaining rules to the students or asking the PE teacher questions, and participate in the activities with the students with physical disabilities to make the activity as enjoyable as possible for the students.
As with any collaboration between teachers, it is extremely important for the PE teacher and the paraprofessionals to have some time to plan together and discuss the best way to mainstream students with physical disabilities into the PE classroom. Paraprofessionals should be familiar with the students' IEPs and may be able to suggest modifications to help the PE teacher. A paraprofessional can also serve as a link between the PE teacher and the special education teacher to make sure the IEP goals for gross motor skills are being met during mainstreaming.
Teaching students with physical disabilities means you have to use the resources available to you to provide the best experiences possible for the children.