Archive for the ‘Inclusiveness’ Category


How to Make Your Physical Education Class More Inclusive

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Group of special needs teenagers and young women with instructor, showing team spirit. They are sitting in a circle on a gym floor, hands in the center. Several of the girls have downs syndrome and two are in wheelchairs.

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

If you are a physical educator, you no doubt have had students with disabilities in your class. In many instances, you may be not be aware of which students have a disability because the disability doesn’t affect their participation in your class. Other times you are well aware of those students and are looking for better ways to keep them challenged, and they end up having a successful and fun experience in your class. “Inclusive PE” is the term used for a General Education (Gen Ed) physical education class in which ALL students are included. This includes any student with a disability who may or may not also be receiving Adapted Physical Education (APE) by a special APE teacher. (APE is provided to students with disabilities as part of the special education services they receive.) Inclusive PE is part of the Gen Ed services and involves placing students alongside their peers with support and proper accommodations to help make everyone successful.

Inclusive PE incorporates everyone who can safely be included in a general PE class. Most students with disabilities (92% at elementary and 88% at secondary level) are mainstreamed into general PE classes. The greatest percentage of students with disabilities falls under the group “specific learning disabilities” (~45%) followed by “speech and language disorders” (~19%). The rest of the students with disabilities fall into the categories of “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),” which can include emotional disturbance, hearing impairment (including deafness), intellectual disability, orthopedic impairments, other health impairments, traumatic brain injury, visual impairments (including blindness) and multiple disabilities.

Inclusive PE has benefits for all students. Students with disabilities gain valuable social skills when working and playing in the Gen Ed environment. All students learn appropriate behavior from a variety of their peers whether they are disabled or not. Students with disabilities have more opportunities to participate in age-appropriate physical activities in an inclusive PE environment compared to APE. Students develop relationships with their Gen Ed peers. Oftentimes, higher expectations lead children with disabilities to achieve more, gain confidence, and develop a stronger sense of self. On the other hand, the Gen Ed students also gain many advantages from inclusion. First, as they are exposed to children with disabilities, they tend to become more understanding of and develop more positive attitudes toward others with differences. They are less likely to see disability as an impairment and more likely to see it simply as a difference and accept them more readily. It has also been shown that when students are given the chance to be an “expert” in an area and become peer tutors, it helps them and increases their abilities in that area. In addition, when teachers create opportunities for students to learn in a variety of ways, it helps not just those with disabilities, but all students. There is no evidence at all that Gen Ed students lose academic or social skills as a result of inclusion. All evidence points to a win-win situation for all students.

As a PE teacher your goal is to help your students reach their full potential. An inclusive environment will help them get there. Be emphasizing respect, acceptance and cooperation as core values in class, you will create an environment that recognizes the value of differences and helps everyone focus on what they can do. The following strategies will help you build a more inclusive environment:

  • Talk to your class about inclusion – Have a conversation about expectations and etiquette. Students will have questions and concerns, so give everyone an opportunity for discussion. Help them to understand that all people have needs and rights and that everyone is different.
  • Use “People First” language – by putting the individual first and the disability second you are helping to create mutual respect. (E.g. “My student with autism” as opposed to “An autistic student.”)
  • Get to know your students – Find out about their abilities, strengths and challenges, rather than making assumptions based on their disability. Find out about their learning needs and which specific strategies work for them.
  • Consult with specialists – Specialists such as PTs, OTs, APE teachers, speech and language therapists, and others with more experience or education regarding working with students with disabilities can be a very effective resource.
  • Engage your students when adapting activities – Help them see that there are many ways to adapt to help them be successful. Guide them so that eventually they will know best how to adapt for themselves.
  • Adapting rules and instructions – If students are having difficulty following rules, simplify so there are fewer rules to remember. Make instructions clear and add resources where needed (e.g. white board, demonstrations, minimize background noise, etc.)
  • Modify activities – Sometimes students will need modifications and sometimes they won’t. It will depend on the student and the activity/skill/game being taught. Don’t assume that if a student has a disability they will always need things to be modified. The following are some general ideas for adapting activities:
    • Let partners/peers assist
    • Eliminate time limits
    • Allow balls to be stationary
    • Modify the purpose of the activity
    • Use models to show the activity
    • Reduce number of players per team
    • Slow the pace of the activity
    • Provide rest periods as needed
    • Define boundaries clearly
    • Modify the activity area
    • Use a variety of sizes, weights, densities of toss/catchables
    • Make lower/larger goals
    • Use lighter equipment
    • Provide balance support

If you are looking for ways to adapt your teaching to better suit students with varying disabilities, SPARK has written its Inclusive PE Guidebook with this in mind. It was written by Adapted Physical Education and Gen Ed Physical Education teachers to help PE teachers teach a more inclusive PE class. SPARK also now has an Inclusive PE workshop (3- or 6-hour) that focuses on creating a more inclusive environment and provides a multitude of strategies to adapt activities to make all your students more successful in PE. Sportime also carries an Inclusive PE Starter Pack that can help your students with disabilities reach their potential in PE.

New, Comprehensive Resources to Advance Inclusive PE

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

275320 PE_INCLUSIVE_web ad_horizWe launched the latest inclusive PE solutions for physical education teachers at the 2017 SHAPE America Convention. These resources include the SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook, Inclusive PE Specialty Workshop and Sportime Inclusive PE Starter Pack, which support teachers in delivering the highest standards and most beneficial instruction to each and every student.

“We’re very excited about these new resources and expect they will have a tremendous impact on teacher development and student experience through evidence-based, carefully curated solutions that reinforce best practices in inclusive PE instruction,” stated Jeff Mushkin, SPARK Curriculum Development Director. “Specifically, the latest tools were developed for general PE teachers to address the need for support in adapting activities when there are a few students with disabilities in their classes. Teachers have asked for help in understanding disabilities and how to make modifications to their lessons in order to engage all students. We have responded to their call. The resources were developed by educators with experience working with students with special needs in both the adapted PE and the inclusive PE setting, and reflect their expertise for building a positive learning environment for all students.”

SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook

Written by leading experts in the physical education field, including SPARK specialists, SHAPE America National Adapted PE Teacher of the Year, Texas Woman’s University, and the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, the SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook provides over 200 pages of resources designed for educators who teach a general PE class that includes students with disabilities. The guidebook serves as a resource for educators to plan skill assessments and determine the best methods for student evaluation. Lesson plans offer instructional content that help teachers address the SHAPE America National Standards for Physical Education.

The guidebook includes 24 sample SPARK lesson plans and 14 skill-building activities with integrations that demonstrate how to modify and adapt the activities for students with disabilities. It also contains valuable fact sheets for 12 disability categories that include background material about each disability and information about how a student with the disability learns best. The SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook can be used on its own or in conjunction with a SPARK Physical Education or After School Curriculum. The guidebook is available in print and/or digital format.

Sportime Inclusive PE Starter Pack

Additionally, educators will benefit from the Sportime Inclusive PE Starter Pack, which provides expert-selected products, specifically designed to substitute for a variety of physical education equipment to keep all students physically active and successfully engaged during PE. The pack includes a variety of tactile balls and bell balls, as well as a pop-up target, foam noodles, juggling scarves, jingle bracelets, directional arrows, numbered spot markers, CatchPads, a lightweight exercise band, and a Califone hearing protector.

This Starter Pack also includes the SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook Set 3 for grades K-12 instructional strategies, skill adaptation activities, lesson plans, and recommendations for assessments, class management and equipment.

Inclusive PE Specialty Workshop

The Inclusive PE Specialty Workshop is a half or full day, on-site workshop that provides strategies to create an inclusive environment, adapt activities and equipment, and accommodate students during skill-based instruction. Workshop participants learn how to modify lessons plans for specific disabilities and how to better meet the needs of their students. Workshop activities provide opportunities for hands-on learning in order to create an inclusive environment that benefits all students.

Commenting on the expanded resources, Tari Garner, SPARK Elite Trainer and 2013 SHAPE America Central District Teacher of the Year said, “General Physical Educators are looking for disability-specific knowledge and ways to actively engage all students in their physical education classes. The Inclusive PE guidebook and training gives teachers the know-how, general and specific adaptations and strategies, not previously available, to better support and inspire students of all abilities!”

Inclusive PE Specialty Workshop Contest

In partnership with Let’s Move! Active Schools, we are also hosting an Inclusive PE Specialty Workshop Contest which presents the opportunity to win an Inclusive PE Workshop, Guidebook, and Equipment Pack! Teachers are encouraged to enter the contest for a chance to bring an interactive professional development experience to their school/district. The winning school will also receive a $500 voucher to purchase PE supplies for the workshop. Entries are open through April 30, 2017 and applicants will be required to complete a short contest entry form to share how an Inclusive PE Workshop and resources would help their school/district create a more active school environment and increase physical education and physical activity opportunities for all students. Eligible participants are K-12 schools in the U.S. that must be enrolled with Let’s Move! Active Schools and have completed the Let’s Move! Active Schools school assessment by April 30, 2017. The winner will be announced on May 19th. Click here to learn more and enter to win.

We also hosted a free public webinar entitled “Inclusive PE: Strategies for Including ALL Students in PE”, which can now be viewed at SPARKecademy.org (an account, free to create, is required). Click here to hear about how general physical educators can adapt skill-building activities and games to include students with disabilities in enjoyable and meaningful ways.

“As we see increasing demand from teachers for Inclusive, as well as Adapted, resources that help support students with special needs, School Specialty under its Sportime featuring SPARK brand for physical education, is committed to providing the most innovative, end-to-end solutions and services to meet those needs,” stated Doug Welles, Vice President, Specialty Businesses. “We remain focused on driving 21st century, inspired learning for the overall wellness and success of all end-users — expanding our product assortment; leveraging our subject-matter expertise; and building strategic partnerships with advocacy leaders such as SHAPE America and the Adapted PE consortium. I’m very enthusiastic about the tremendous benefits our new Inclusive PE guidebook, training and equipment solutions will bring to teachers and students nationwide!”

Strategies to Help Increase Inclusiveness in Your PE Class

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Multi-ethnic group of children with coach in school gym.

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

When teaching PE, are all of your students successful in reaching the objectives of a lesson? If your answer is “affirmative,” way to go! If, however, they are not all reaching the objectives or being appropriately challenged, this blog is for you. It is important to know how to adapt your activities in a variety of ways in order to help all students, including those with special needs, achieve your objectives.

Students have many things in common, but they also differ in so many ways. They have diverse ways of learning, their fitness and skill levels vary from one extreme to the other, they may enjoy varying levels of competition, their reasons for being active are not the same, and so forth. Even in a “typical” general education (gen ed) PE class, there is a wide range of abilities, fitness, and competitive levels. By providing choices and challenges, teachers can help to address the variety within the group. It is your job to adapt and tweak the variables in PE class in order to allow all of your students to be successful.

This blog will cover a few of these strategies:

Focus on the Positive – Rather than look at just a student’s disability, it may help you to look at their abilities. What skills does the student possess that can assist them with reaching the objectives? What are they able to do well? How can you build on that?

How does the Disability Manifest Itself? – Just because someone is labeled with a disability does not necessarily mean they will have difficulty in reaching objectives in PE. Many students, disabled or not, have difficulties. By noticing the things they have difficulty doing, you may be able to adapt the activity or environment to downplay those challenges or to help them overcome them. Things such as difficulty focusing on a task, lack of technique, limited mobility or strength, etc. may be challenging, but certainly do not make things impossible. There may also be issues you see in your gen ed students, so by adapting for your students with disabilities you may be helping others, as well.

Utilize Peer Tutors – Peer tutoring, where students work in pairs or in small groups to master skills, can be very beneficial for both disabled and gen ed students. Since students with disabilities may thrive where there is a smaller ratio of student to teacher, having a peer tutor helps address that need. It is also nice to have a student with strong skills be a good role model for students working to build those skills. There are several models of peer tutoring:

  • Unidirectional – Where the student with the disability is always the “student” in the pair
  • Reciprocal – Both take turns being tutor and student
  • Class-wide – The entire class is divided into pairs and reciprocate tutoring roles
  • Cross-aged – Older students come into the class to help the younger students

Peer tutors are most effective when they’ve been given clear instructions regarding the best ways for their buddies to learn and receive feedback. It is important for peer buddies to be taught not to over-assist or be condescending toward their peer with a disability, but to treat them simply as a member of their class.

Utilize Paraprofessionals/Aides – Many students with disabilities have aides who move with them from class to class in order to help them be successful. Some aides may be one-on-one, while others are shared with several students or the whole class. The key to success with paraprofessionals/aides is to be clear in communicating your expectations. What would you like them to do during your PE class to help their student(s) be successful and safe? Go over these expectations and foster a collaborative relationship. Let them know they are appreciated and a vital part of the team. Explain that they are responsible for attending and assisting the student in the least restrictive or invasive manner possible. They need to allow their students to do as much as they can independently, but to be there when they need assistance. They should be prepared for activity in clothing, footwear, and attitude. They should do their best to keep their student from interfering with others’ learning as well as enhancing their own.

Adapt the Activity – Many games and activities can easily be adapted to increase success for students with disabilities. Teach all your students that adapting the rules to a game or sport is a skill you want all of them to have. Allow them to come up with new ideas for ways to make the game more fun, active, and safe for everyone. A few examples would be to play with smaller teams, on a different surface, with simplified rules, or different ways to score. When it comes to dance, allow students to change moves or the tempo of the music.

Adapt the Equipment – Find out what your students can do and use special equipment or modify existing equipment to allow them to do that. This typically involves bigger, lighter, slower moving tossables and striking implements. For example, beach balls or balloons in place of volleyballs, or a light racquet to strike a ball instead of a bat. Blind or visually impaired students, for example, can have increased success in object control skills when using an object that makes noise, such as a bell ball.

Don’t Sacrifice Safety for Success – Overall, the goal is to have students with disabilities participating and achieving success, but never at the expense of their or the other students’ safety. Do your research to know what is and isn’t safe for your participants. For example, is anyone allergic to latex? Are there contraindicated exercises for students with a specific disability? Once you are sure of what you can and can’t do, proceed.

Use a Variety of Instructional Strategies – There are a variety of strategies for instructions and practice. Each may work for differing populations:

  • When large groups are overwhelming, break into smaller groups or pairs.
  • Break skills into mini chunks.
  • Teach only a portion of the activity rather than the entire game.
  • Provide breaks for students who get overwhelmed.
  • Challenge students with mini-goals throughout the lesson.
  • Use engaging targets.
  • Use video recording to give feedback on skills.
  • Keep activities age-appropriate.
  • Allow students to explore their abilities and problem-solve on their own where and when appropriate.

We at SPARK would love to know what you and your students are doing in your inclusive PE classes. Send us an email with ideas and strategies that work for you and your classes! spark@sparkpe.org

Now Available: The New SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook!

The SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook provides over 200 pages of resources designed for Physical Education (PE) teachers who teach a general PE class that includes students with disabilities. The guidebook provides information and strategies for creating an inclusive environment so that all students can be successful by participating in an authentic and enjoyable PE class.

The guidebook includes 24 sample SPARK lesson plans and 14 skill-building activities with integrations that demonstrate how to modify and adapt the activities for students with disabilities. This guidebook also contains valuable fact sheets for 12 disability categories that includes background material about each disability and information about how a student with the disability learns best.

The SPARK Inclusive PE Guidebook is available in print and digital format. Click here to learn more!