Adapted Physical Activities for Recess

by SPARK


physical activities

Recess can be the most fun part of a child’s school day, and it’s important for any planned activities to be inclusive for all students.

That’s where adapted physical activities come in. These are activities that have been changed in one way or another to accommodate students who have sensory, motor and/or intellectual disabilities. The tools used in adapted physical activities are also often changed to fit students’ needs, and can include the use of textured sensory balls and padded equipment.

Adapted physical activities aren’t just for students with disabilities, and the right activity can be fun for all students to play together. They key is to have the proper equipment and supervision on hand so that all children participate equally.

Schoolyard Soccer

Soccer is one of the most popular recess sports, and can be easily adapted to allow for inclusion. Some strategies include:

  • Have students walk rather than run;
  • Use a slightly deflated ball, it rolls slower; or adapted equipment that is brightly colored, softer, larger, and/or is textured;
  • Make the playing area smaller and have less students on the field;
  • Ensure a teacher or student is on hand to blow a whistle or call out when a goal has been scored.

The above strategies aren’t dramatic shifts from soccer as we know it, but they do make the game more approachable for students with mobility issues and visual impairments.

Jump Rope

Jump rope can be an excellent way to increase both cardio levels and coordination. It can also be an excellent adapted physical education activity for recess.

One adapted technique is to have students change the way they move the rope. Rather than moving it in circles, try instead having two students hold the rope stationary at a height low to the ground. Students can then jump over the unmoving rope, mastering the movement it takes to jump rope the traditional way. Students without disabilities can be challenged by having the rope raised higher and higher with each subsequent jump. Students holding the rope need to hold it loosely that it comes out of their hands if a jumper trips over the rope, especially for students with limited gross motor skills.

For students who want to jump rope the traditional way, brightly colored ropes or a beaded rope can help increase awareness of when a child needs to successfully jump. The students turning the rope can also call out each time a student’s feet are supposed to leave the ground.

SHAPE America recommends ditching the skipping rope all together. By drawing a target on the ground, students can pretend to jump rope while hopping on and off that specific marker. That allows children to attain the same level of fitness and improve their coordination, without the pressure or frustration of having to keep the rope moving.

For students who can’t jump or children in wheelchairs, jump ropes can be an excellent tool to create a simple obstacle course on a smooth playground surface. Create a series of wavy lines or circles using the rope and have children run, walk, or wheel alongside that course.

Softball

Like soccer, this is another popular recess sport that can be made more inclusive. Recess supervisors should consider the following adaptations:

  • Use a velcro ball and provide those students with gross motor delays a velcro mitt;
  • Limit the pitching distance and have a batting tee on hand for students who have trouble with hand-eye coordination;
  • Reduce the distance between bases and have students without disabilities give tagging leeway for their classmates with a disability;
  • Replace bats with a tennis racquet for students who may have a hard time hitting the ball;
  • Have a bright colored, soft, or beeping ball that is better seen and heard by students with a visual impairment.

Since softball places the focus on one student at a time, it’s an easier activity to adapt for a child’s individual needs, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.

The key to incorporating adapted physical activity into recess is to ensure there’s buy-in from all children. This should be no problem at all if you maintain the tried and true elements of play: movement, laughter, and the opportunity to have fun.

 

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