Adaptive PE

Two interesting articles this week about sports in schools have inspired me to do a quick primer on New York State physical education regulations. But first, those two stories.

One comes from Special Olympics New York, which announced it’s expanding its partnership with New York City Public School to “ensure” access to Special Olympics sports at District 75 schools.

This means that “more than 1,700 students with disabilities will now be able to participate in Special Olympics track & field, volleyball, and basketball during their school day. An additional 200 high school students with and without disabilities will participate in an afterschool unified basketball league, and 200 middle school students with and without disabilities will participate in a unified bocce league,” the organization reports.

This leads me to the second article, which has a broader scope. An excellent look at unified sports, which includes students with and without disabilities on the same team, it comes from Entitled “Yes, you can do this: The story behind the rapid rise in sports for youth with disabilities,” it reports that “nearly 48,000 students nationwide participated during the 2021-2022 school year in unified sports, which include students with and without disabilities on the same team. That’s up from about 5,500 in 2018-19, according to the survey from the National Federation of State High School Associations.” Read about the history of unified sports, why there’s some nuance to these numbers and more here.

And now, a primer. The information below and much more can be found on the New York State Education Department website.

Who’s Entitled to Receive Physical Education?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitles all K-12 students with disabilities to receive a free, appropriate public education, including appropriate physical education. The IEP must indicate the extent to which the student will participate in physical education including adapted physical education (APE), if appropriate. It’s recommended that a certified physical educator conduct the evaluation to determine the need for APE. The CSE must ensure that the evaluation results are discussed and the participation of the evaluator is sought through written and/or verbal means.

What is Adaptive Physical Education (APE)?

In many cases, appropriate physical education means adaptive physical education, a specially designed program of developmental activities, games, sports and rhythms suited to the interests, capabilities, and limitations of students with disabilities who may not safely or successfully engage in unrestricted participation in the activities of the regular physical education program.

What Kind of Service Is APE?

Adaptive PE is a direct, not a related, service.

Who Teaches It?

The class must be provided by a certified physical education teacher.

What Are the Appropriate Class Sizes?

The size of APE classes (number of students per class) should conform with what is contained in a student’s IEP. When students requiring an APE program are included in integrated classes, consideration must be given to the total class size and support services so that all students are able to benefit from instruction.

Under what circumstances would an aide be required?

If a one-to-one aide is indicated on the student’s IEP in all instructional areas, that aide must be provided for the adapted physical education class. However, the (IEP) may indicate that the provision of an aide is limited to certain areas of the student’s educational program.

Where Must APE instruction be provided?

When scheduling the use of physical education facilities, students receiving APE must be given equitable access to all physical education facilities. Adapted physical education and extracurricular programs for students with disabilities must be conducted in safe environments appropriate for the student’s individual needs.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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