Adapted Physical Education

  • A quality physical education program provides the foundation for a healthy, happy, and productive lifestyle.  This we owe to all students.

    According to Public Law 105-17, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), "Physical education services, specially designed if necessary, must be made available to every child with a disability receiving a free appropriate public education." An appropriate physical education program should be discussed at IEP meetings and goals and objectives should be included in the IEP whenever a student needs an adapted physical education program. Adapted physical education is a "specially designed physical education program as prescribed in the student’s IEP" (PL 105-17). 

    A disability is any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a person in some major life activity such as walking, talking, breathing, or working.  Students with disabilities need physical education as much as their non-disabled peers.   Physical education activities stimulate the central nervous system for optimal growth and development, assist in bone mineralization, promote the maintenance of lean body mass, unreduced obesity, improve the function of the heart and develop movement skills that are necessary for an active lifestyle.  For many students with disabilities, movement is a mode for learning.  Physical education can help students with and without disabilities learn to work and play together in movement and recreational activities available to all members of the community.  Through an adapted physical education program that provides challenging activities, students with disabilities develop self-esteem by way of increased confidence, assertiveness, independence, and self-control.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is adapted physical education?

    Adapted physical education is an instructional service – not a setting or placement.  Students receive adapted physical education when, because of their disability, the instructional program is somehow different from what their peers receive or when they will be held to different criteria for success.  Students can receive adapted physical education in an integrated or separate environment or a combination of instructional environments.  This means that a student can receive adapted physical education in the environment that best meets the student’s educational needs.

    What is the ARD Committee?

    The Admission, Review and Dismissal Committee is composed of a student’s parent(s) and school personnel who are involved with the student. The ARD committee determines a student’s eligibility to receive special education services and develops the Individual Education Program (IEP) of the student.

    How do you determine if a student should be considered for adapted physical education services?

    All students who qualify for services mandated by PL 105-17 who have a disability which may affect their gross motor skills, strength, flexibility, physical fitness, and/or impact their ability to perform daily routines and participate in community based leisure and recreation should be considered for adapted physical education services. When planning IEP meetings for students who have disabilities consider how their disability may affect their ability to be successful in the regular physical education program. Also, be sure to notify the appropriate physical educator in your building as part of the IEP process.

    What is the appropriate physical education environment for a student with a disability?

    Students with disabilities must be afforded the opportunity to participate in the regular physical education program available to non-disabled students unless:

    • The student enrolled is in a full-time separate facility
    • The student needs an adapted physical education program, as determined by the IEP team and prescribed in the student’s IEP (PL 105-17) 

    What instructional environment should be available for providing adapted physical education?

    The instructional setting will accommodate each student in the Least Restrictive Environment, depending on the student’s IEP. Settings could include:

    • Integrated regular physical education
    • Integrated regular physical education with supplemented aids and services
    • Integrated regular physical education supplemented with separate adapted physical education when necessary
    • Separate adapted physical education supplemented with integrated regular physical education when possible
    • Separate adapted physical education 

    How does the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) Committee process address the physical education needs of students with disabilities as you proceed through the IEP process?

    The ARD committee will :

    • Collaborate with the physical education teacher to determine if the student is having difficulty meeting goals of the essential curriculum in physical education
    • Ensure parent notification and permission for assessment
    • Contact an APE consultant to assist with motor assessment
    • Conduct an IEP team meeting to discuss needs, approaches, interventions and instructional expectations (may request APE consultant attend)
    • Determine goals and objectives to be included in the IEP
    • Enter into the IEP document the appropriate adapted physical education environment, service provider and hours of service
    • Receive parent approval of the IEP 

    What is the role of the physical educator in the IEP process?

    When a student with a disability is having difficulty meeting the goals of the essential curriculum in physical education, the student’s physical education teacher should ask to be included in the IEP process. The physical educator will:

    • Review the student’s confidential folder, to determine if adapted physical education is indicated by the IEP
    • Speak to the campus site specialist about the student’s difficulties in physical education and discuss how to proceed and obtain an assessment
    • Ask the site specialist to obtain parent permission for physical education assessment
    • Conduct the assessment or contact an adapted physical education resource consultant at the Office of Health and Physical Education for assistance
    • Complete a written report based on the results of the assessment and develop goals and objectives
    • Provide information obtained during the assessment to help the IEP team understand the student’s gross motor, social-emotional and cognitive performance in physical education
    • Identify instructional goals and objectives and the appropriate instructional environment when adapted physical education is recommended
    • Present findings at the ARD meeting
    • Contact the adapted physical education consultant for assistance with the implementation of the IEP goals and objectives if needed
    • Complete quarterly reports for goals and objectives that are stated on the IEP
    • Present updated goals and objectives for annual review
    • Continue consultation with the adapted physical education resource teacher

    What is the Role of the Adapted Physical Education Resource Teacher?

    Physical education teachers provide instruction to all students attending the school at which they are assigned. Instructional support, training, and resources are available through the Office of Special Education and the Office of Health and Physical Education. The role of the adapted physical education resource teacher is to assist campus-based physical educators in providing instruction to students with disabilities in the following ways:


    Assessment Program Development Monitoring Consultation Collaborative Instruction Materials
    • Pre–referral intervetion
    • Evaluation of psychomotor performance
    • Re-evaluation for continued services
    • Observation to establish behavior management programs
    • Development of goals and objectives in physical education
    • Assistance to the physical educator adapting instruction
    • Identification and provision of additional needed resources
    • Assistance with implementation of behavior management programs
    • Assistance with monitoring instructional goals
    • Assistance to the physical educator in adapting grade scale
    • Problem solving
    • Facilitation of access to resources outside the building
    • Encouragement of alternative methodology, evaluation, and reporting
    • Professional development
    • Assistance with implementation of appropriate instructional methods in inclusive settings
    • Provides models of instructional methods on a short-term basis
    • Assistance with small group or individual instruction
    • Assistance with adapted physical education instruction
    • Assistance with the selection of appropriate instructional materials and equipment
    • Identification of alternative materials or equipment
    • Identification of media and computer resources