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Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. Advocating for Disability Civil Rights since 1979

In this Issue:

Accessing Sports and Physical Education

January 2013


Dear Friends and Family Caregivers,

Academics are a vital part of many Individualized Education Plans, but IEPS include more than reading and math. Although some of us dreaded gym, a well-taught physical education class can be a great source of success for students with disabilities. Physical education gives students a chance to enjoy movement, interact with peers in a non-academic but structured setting and, hopefully, have a little fun.

Are students with disabilities legally entitled to physical education?
Yes! California law and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) both provide for appropriate, individualized instruction in physical education for students with disabilities. For students with mobility disabilities or orthopedic impairment, this includes instructions in motor skills and motor development. For all students, physical education should include introduction to physical sports and games, including team sports such as basketball and soccer and "lifetime" sports like running and swimming.

My student also receives physical and/or occupational therapy. Are these the same as physical education?
No. Physical and occupational therapy and physical education are separate and distinct services. Physical and occupational therapy help students with disabilities work toward IEP goals. Physical education can provide a valuable time for students to enjoy games and recreation that are accessible to the student, and is not itself a form of therapy. Some students with disabilities will participate in a general education gym class, while others will participate in a gym class with other students with disabilities. Others will participate one-on-one with a physical education instructor.

How can my student participate in a physical education class with typically-developing or non-disabled peers?
There are many simple adaptations to physical games that allow students with and without disabilities to play together. Adaptive mitts or racquets can assist athletes with motor coordination disabilities. Athletes with attention difficulties or executive functioning limitations can benefit from well-defined boundaries (delineated with cones or chalk lines) and playing equipment in bright or contrasting colors. Chalk and masking tape can mark defensive positions in basketball and baseball. In all games, an aide or fellow athlete can buddy up with an athlete with disabilities to assist physically or prompt with verbal cues. For more adaptations to make physical education available to your student, visit PECentral.org's Adapted Physical Education site.

Can my student participate in sports and games outside of the classroom?
In many cases, yes! Students with disabilities can succeed in both team and individual sports- in and out of school. Coaches can provide many of the same accommodations that teachers do, such as by simplifying instructions or using non-verbal and verbal cues to guide appropriate behavior.

Many students with physical disabilities have participated on teams with non-disabled peers, including those who use adaptive athletic crutches to play soccer and athletes who use prosthetic limbs while competing in track and field, swimming and football. Some athletes compete with non-disabled athletes at school and with other adaptive athletes out of school. Organizations that promote competitive sports for athletes with disabilities include the Special Olympics, for athletes with intellectual disabilities, the Paralympics, for athletes with various disabilities, and many regional and national organizations that provide athletes with opportunities to participate in many kinds of sports. For more information on resources for adaptive athletes, click on some of our additional resources.

Additional Resources:

PE Central provides nformation and resources on adapted physical education, including suggestions for adapting many common P.E. games.

The National Sports Center for the Disabled provides access to adaptive sports, including skiing, hiking and many more, for disabled athletes, including athletes with behavioral, emotional or mental health disabilities.

The American Amputee Soccer Association promotes adaptive soccer for athletes who use athletic crutches. AASA athletes compete in adaptive and non-adaptive soccer at all levels, from high school and college to international tournaments.

Disabled Sports USA has expanded from its original mission to serve disabled veterans to offer access to sports to any person with a permanent disability, while also identifying and training athletes to represent the United States in the Paralympic Games.

The Summer and Winter Deaflympics are international competitions for deaf athletes and are some of the oldest continuously contested international games!

The Bay Area Outreach and Education Program, housed in the Ed Roberts Campus, provides access to sports and recreation activities to people with physical disabilities.

Upcoming Dredf Workshops
Registration Is Required. Space Is Limited.

Understanding the Special Education Process: IEP Basics & Beyond

FREE: An overview of the special education process, Section 504, and IDEA laws.
Date: Second Monday of the month (not July or August)
Next Offered: February 11, 2013
Time: 6:00 – 8:30 pm (Pizza and soft drinks included!)
Where: DREDF, Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703 at Ashby BART
Classroom: The Bernard Osher Foundation Education Center, First Floor
To Register: Contact Annelise at (510) 644-2555 X5227 or mhourani@dredf.org

© 2013

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Advocacy Tip of the Month:

Request an adaptive physical education assessment if your student struggles in physical education.

Related Links:

DREDF Special Education Training Materials
including Sample Letter to request Special Education Evaluation

Parent Training & Information (PTI) Center Directory

National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability

Combined Federal Campaign #11944

Support DREDF when you shop.

Changing the Present


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