My excitement grows as the school year starts up. I look forward to seeing my students again, hearing about their summers and focusing on teaching new skills. I feel lucky that throughout the year I will have the opportunity to share information about the aspects that go into the adapted physical education field. My mission is to provide detailed information that will prove to be useful for parents, physical educators, adapted physical educators, and other educational professionals. My vision is that by the end of the school year, those who hold stake in the adapted physical education field will have a clear understanding for the profession. Parents will gain knowledge of what to expect from an adapted physical education program that holds high expectations for children. Teachers will enhance their practice so that they can provide an individualized education program that fosters their students becoming active member in society who lead healthy lifestyles. Throughout the year I will introduce adapted physical education and promote conferences. There will be information about inclusive sports (unified, allied, corollary, Special Olympics), the Individual Education Program (IEP) and the Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP), staying active in the summer and winter months, transition planning, the referral and re-evaluation process, support systems, resources and supportive organizations, assessment, and more. Please feel free to e-mail me at to provide feedback or topics of interest. Wishing you all the best as we venture into the school year together.

Adapted vs Adaptive Physical Education / Direct vs Indirect Service

Over the course of my career, I have found that many professionals in education use the term "Adaptive Physical Education". I find that I am often educating my colleagues that the correct term is "Adapted". According to Seaman, etc. (2003), the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) now known as the Society for Health And Physical Education (SHAPE) defined adapted physical education in 1952 as " [A] diversified 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 vigorous activities of the general physical education programs". According to Sherrill (1998), the term adapted is a verb referring to the "process of modifying" such as the activity, equipment, or facilities. Adapted can also be an adjective when considering the modification of the program or service delivery. Sherrill mentions that adapted and adaptive should never be used interchangeably. Adaptive is a term that describes behaviors, skills, or functions. It appeared in the original definition of intellectual disabilities (formerly known as mental retardation).

It is for these reasons that we used adapted versus adaptive because the goal is to modify the equipment, rules, environment, or instruction to best suit the child's needs and not to change the student.

Sherrill (1998), also explains that PL 94-142 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (formerly known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975) adapted physical education is a direct service. The law requires that physical education services, specially designed if necessary, be made available to students found eligible for special education services. The services are required to be free, appropriate, and in the least restrictive environment. The law separated direct services (required educational services) and related (not required unless proven necessary as a support to accessing and benefiting from the required educational services) services By including physical education as a part of the special education definition, the law specified physical education as a direct service and, therefore a required service.

"All Good Physical Education is Adapted Physical Education" - Claudine Sherrill

Seaman. J., Depauw. K., Morton. K., and Omoto. K., (2003) Making connections: from theory to practice in adapted physical education, Holcomb Hathaway, Publishers, Inc., Scottsdale, AZ. pg. 2 - 3.

Sherrill. C., (1998). Adapted physical activity, recreation, and sport: crossdiscipinary and lifespan (5th Ed). WCB/McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Boston, MA. pg. 8 and 78.

A Collaborative Approach Between the Teacher and Paraeducator

Think back to a time that you entered someone’s environment to help them or you were a new member of an established committee. You may have helped a friend move, cook dinner, fix a car, build something, or you were a volunteer for an organization. In your reflection of this moment, you entered this environment as the novice person. Some of you may reflect on a scenario where you are enthusiastic to help and some may be thinking of a moment with less enthusiasm.

A paraeducator is a school employee who works under the supervision of teachers and other professional practitioners. Their job is instructional in nature and they provide other direct services to the children. To better gauge the emotional position of a paraeducator entering my instructional environment, I used planning time to enter a fellow teacher’s classroom during instruction to provide instructional support. I have done this many times throughout my career and it has made me more empathic and aware of what paraeducator need to perform their duties. I recall feeling out of place because I didn’t know how to start or how to help the students. I was not always sure of the instructional objective or how to teach the information. At times I took initiative with the best intentions to help, only to recognize that it was not how the teacher planned for the instruction to be implemented. It was a very interesting experiment and I learned a lot from the experience.

Here is a list of strategies that I have found to be helpful

  1. Make a positive connection with the paraeducators during inservice week or the first week of school. Hold a meeting where you can review the routines and structure of your class, your expectations, and to ask if they have questions or concerns. Providing them the information on paper is a good visual reminder.
  2. Build the paraeducator’s comfort level by listening to their suggestions and hearing their thoughts. This doesn’t necessarily mean complying with everything they say, but rather providing them a voice.
  3. Provide the paraeducator a daily index card of information. Usually, we lack the time to explain everything to the paraeducator that we need to because they are entering the environment with the students. During the preparation phase, write the objective of the lesson onto the index card with expectations for the paraeducator. For example, the index card may read: Today we are working on throwing overhand. Please help John grasp the small yellow ball and propel it towards the target on the wall. I have been using the words hold, reach, and throw as verbal support.
  4. Know the paraeducators’ strength and weakness. We wish and often expect paraeducators to be able to do everything, unfortunately that is not always the case. Just like the students, paraeducators are coming to us with diverse levels of education, physical abilities, emotional states, and with professional experience. The better we get to know the paraeducators, the better we can utilize their strengths.
  5. Provide clear and simple directions. Avoid the paraeductor getting lost in the instructions and becoming frustrated from figuring out the expectations. The paraeducator may have a wealth of background knowledge, but most of them did not become licensed to teacher physical education. Use common every day language that is clear.

I am about to start in a school where I have very little knowledge about the students as individuals. The paraeducators will be able to provide insight about the students. I combine this information with my professional knowledge to guide instruction. Change is often difficult and I expect the paraeducators will rely on the previous teacher’s expectations and structure. A common statement or feeling from the paraeducators is “This isn't how so and so did it”. This sentiment indicates a lack of comfort for change and/or understanding for my vision and expectations

When a conflict arises it is necessary to keep a focused mind and a professional emotional state. Remember to reflect on your uncomfortable or novice experiences you had and to follow the five strategies. Paraeducators play a very important role in the educational process. The success of your lesson often depends on their understanding of your routine, structure, and objectives. Work with your paraeducators and watch student engagement soar.

For more information to building a successful partnership with paraeducators visit Deb Marcus’ blog on Maryland Learning Links at

1 in 59 Children are Diagnosed with Autism

In 2014, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced research that finds that 1 in every 59 children are being diagnosed with Autism. This is an increase from the previous numbers of 1 in every 88 children (2008 data). With these increasing numbers, it continues to be of the highest importance to promote awareness, teach for a better understanding, and provide for inclusive settings. Society needs to evolve to welcome individuals with autism into the community.

CDC Link: Click Here

U.S. Department of Education: Dear Colleague Letter

On January 25th 2013, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights addressed the nation through a Dear Colleague letter. The letter written represents the position of the United States Department of Education in response to the United States Government Accountability Office's (GAO) published findings report. In 2010, the report found that despite legislation obligating that schools and States provide equal access and opportunities to physical activity, children and youth with disabilities were not afford equality in extracurricular activities and Physical Education. The report recommended that the U.S Department of Education clarify and communicate the schools' responsibilities under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 related to extracurricular athletics.

A school district that offers extracurricular athletics, must do so in a manner that allows a child with a disability an equal opportunity to participate. This ensures that every child has the right to tryout for athletics. The school district must consider if safe participation can be assured through reasonable modifications or through provisions of aids and services. The modifications considered may not alter the structure or the flow of the game. An appropriate provision would be allowing a child with autism to have a dedicated assistant support them during practice and on the sidelines of the game.

The letter addresses that school districts must ensure that students with disabilities participate in with students without disabilities to the maximum extend possible. Separating the two without consideration of integration is considered discriminatory. The Office of Civil Rights encourages school districts to develop opportunities for children with disabilities to engage in all extracurricular athletic activities.

If a students with a disabilities is not able to safely participate in an existing extracurricular athletic activity with reasonable modifications, aids and services; they should still have an equal opportunity to receive the benefits of extracurricular activities. The school districts may consider developing additional opportunities such as an inclusive sports program for both children with and without disabilities.

Dear colleague .pdf
GAO report.pdf

Environmental Considerations: Part 1 of 3 to Individualizing for Success

Remember those days of wanting to be invited to play, being a part of the group, and successful at the activity? Athlete or not, we have all been in that situation and may be again. It is time to put those creative hats on and analyze methods of adaptation and modification to providing inclusive environments. This is a place where everyone feels welcome, equally a part of the group, and has an opportunity to be successful. Environment, equipment, instruction, and rules are four areas that should be considered when creatively analyzing methods of adaptation and modification.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act addresses an individual’s right to access an environment that is federally funded. The environment is the surrounding area that is chosen for the activity. Parents and teachers of the activity should consider if the environment’s noise (loud, soft, echo, or repetitive) will hinder or enhance the success and participation.

This is one sensory consideration that some children with autism have been effected by. The noise is a factor that cannot always be modified, but a successful strategy for some has been to provide the child with headphones (soothing sounds/music), ear plugs, or ear muffs (direct sound hearing protection). The light or sun can act as visual stimuli that are capable of hindering a child’s performance by distracting the individual or through a painful/discomfort feeling. If this is observed, the child can wear a hat, visor, or sunglasses. If inside and if possible, the lights can be dimmed or shut off. Remember the strategy of positioning yourself facing the sun and the child’s back to the sun during communicative interactions. Another visual stimulus that can deter productive engagement is the attractive nature of the environment. A child may be drawn to the flowers, insects, an area with a specific textured surface, or visuals on the walls. This is very individualized, but important to observe and keep in mind during planning of an activity.

The temperature of the environment should be taken in consideration. Children with orthopedic impairments who lack feeling in some of their extremities will not be able to tell you if they are becoming overheated or overly chilled. This can have serious implications on the child’s health.

Some children are also hyposensitive which means they are “under-sensitive” to stimuli and require more of the stimuli to feel it. This may be observed in children that crave deep pressure massage; they may throw their bodies into the ground or other people. The opposite is hypersensitive, where the individual easily is affected by a small amount of the stimuli. These children may not like wearing shoes, clothing, or walking on specific surfaces. They may use avoidance techniques such as covering their ears or eyes.

A key aspect to consider is the child’s physical ability to access the environment and successfully participate in the physical activity within the environment. The teacher or parent should analyze: distance and pathway (obstacles, linear or curved) to the physical activity, changes in elevations (stairs, hills, curbs, ramps), facilities (elevator, chair lift, stairs with a rail, doorways), and surface consistency (firm, soft, bumpy, smooth, slippery, steady, rocky, shaky).

This blog provides aspects of environments that should be considered and analyzed prior to bringing the child into that setting. It does not provide information regarding every possible environment and child. It does however promote the conscience efforts towards reviewing the environment, making necessary accommodations, and reflecting on the successful inclusion of the child.

Equipment Modification & Adaptation: Part 2 to Individualizing for Success

In part one of this three part series, I discussed how the environment plays an important factor in proving a quality education and positive experience. The modification of the environment, equipment, instruction, and rules follows the Newell Model of constraints. This model describes how the environment, task (equipment, instruction, rules), and individual are related and either support or distinguish a successful positive experience. Newell explains that the environment and task can be modified and that the individual cannot be. The parent or educator should not focus on a child’s disability, but rather focus on the strengths and study how the task (equipment, instruction, rules), and the environment may be altered to support the child’s ability to practice and build on the strengths. In this case, a child’s strength may be the present abilities of a skill that an adult may deem weak compared to the norm for his or her chronological age. In part 2 of the series, I will discuss general methods of modifying equipment.

According to Lieberman and Houston-Wilson (2002), an equipment modification is any modification that would make the child more successful than when using the pre-existing equipment (pg. 58). Children may benefit from equipment modifications because of physical limitations such as limited grip strength, body orientation, body coordination, mobility, vision, hearing, and/or attention/focus. An individual may also be hyposensitive (less sensitive) or hypersensitive (more sensitive) to equipment.

An educator or parent should consider the striking implement when engaged in activities such as badminton, tennis, baseball/softball/tee ball, racquetball, etc. The longer the striking implement, the harder it will be for the individual to control. The shorter implements closer to the individuals hand and body are easier to control. If a child is struggling to coordinate body movements to successfully strike an object, it is best to consider using a shorter implement with a wider head such as a ping pong paddle, a foam lollipop looking paddle, or possibly even just with using the hand to strike prior to holding an implement. The educator may consider using a Velcro strap (around the hand or wrist) or glove with Velcro for children who have difficulty gripping and holding onto an implement.

Balls are not always necessarily modified, but give attention to the type of ball the child is provided. When kicking a ball, a child will find more success if the ball is partially deflated. This increases the number of opportunities to kick the ball and decreases the amount of time chasing the ball. It enhances the ability to control the ball by slowing it down. A beeper or bell ball who support the success of a child with a visual impairment. A beeper box placed behind a target will also enhance the child’s success at hitting a target. Deflated balls with a lighter weight have been successful in supporting an individual’s ability to catch. Some children benefit from holding a basket to catch prior to catching an object with the hands. I have found the use of balloons in plastic backs to work well because the object is slow; the bags are exciting and providing a sound. The bags around the balloon also enhance the balloons life and provide children with latex allergies. Using soft balls to catch, kick, or throw usually supports the child’s comfort level of safety because they know it won’t hurt.

Lieberman, L.J., & Houston-Wilson, C. (2002). Strategies for inclusion: A handbook for physical educators. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Pg. 58.

Instruction and Rule Modifications: Part 3 to Individualizing for Success

In the first two parts of the three part series, I discussed general modifications related to the environment and equipment. In this part, I will discuss methods of modifying the instruction and rules. According to Lieberman and Houston-Wilson (2002), instructional modifications are the various methods of presenting information to a child in a fashion that best meets his or her needs and supports successful growth.

Instructional modifications consist of grouping of students, content load, verbal cueing, demonstrations, physical guidance, and visual aids including picture symbols (Lieberman and Houston-Wilson, 2002). Practicing a skill can occur in large groups, small groups, or as an individual. The instructor will take the students in consideration to best plan how the children will be most successful at meeting the objectives. It is recommended to have diverse groupings and allow the opportunity to participate in each type of grouping throughout multiple situations.

Verbal cues should be clear, specific, and concise. They should be provided in the means that the student communicates, and should be repeated in multiple ways to ensure understanding. Children learn differently, and many people are considered visual learners. They learn through seeing the skill prior to performing it. Demonstration is a key method of instruction and it is recommended to be presented by showing the whole skill, breaking the skill down, and showing the entire skill again.

When children are struggling to successfully complete a task, the educator or parent should consider providing physical guidance. This is assisting the child physically through the desired skill or movement. It is recommended to ask the child if you can provide this assistance prior to engaging in this method of support.

The visual learners may also benefit from visual aids such as posters on the wall, picture schedules, video clips, written instructions, etc. Picture card symbols (PCS) are popular with enhancing the understanding and communication of children with intellectual disabilities or autism. Children use the picture cards to visually see what the task is and what tasks are to follow. Parents often use PCS throughout the home. They may place a picture card with the word and picture of a chair onto an actual chair. This supports the child’s ability to transfer the concrete object to the picture/word card. Using a schedule board with PCS often supports the ability to provide instruction and leads to a smoother instructional period.

The original or culturally accepted rules can be purposely deviated in order to provide opportunities for everyone to be challenged and successful. In the game of tee-ball, the outfield may have to retrieve a ball for a student who demonstrates limited force in striking the object off the tee. Making this rule provides the individual more time to maneuver to first base, while challenging the outfields to run in, retrieve the ball, and get it to first base. This is an acceptable rule modification because the game has not been altered. A rule modification that is not acceptable is allowing one student to carry a soccer ball in the game of soccer while everyone else has to follow the rule of using their feet. This may place a disadvantage on the other students’ successfully participation and hinder the flow of the game. Rule modifications can slow down the pace of the game, allow for more chances, takes away rules, can eliminate defense, and/or limit or add responsibility (Lieberman and Houston-Wilson, 2002). A popular rule modification has been to make sure all players are involved before a team is allowed to score.

Lieberman, L.J., & Houston-Wilson, C. (2002). Strategies for inclusion: A handbook for physical educators. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Pg. 59 - 60.

Response to Intervention and the Referral Process

There are procedures in place to support children that are struggling to meet the Physical Education curricular student learning objectives and state standards. If you have a concern about a child’s ability to meet the grade level criteria you should contact your educational team and discuss following the steps indicated in this blog. It is important to remember that the parents/guardians, student, physical educator, classroom teacher, guidance counselor, school psychologist, principal, vice principal, and any other school system professional servicing the child is part of the educational team. In cases related to health, the child’s physician can also be part of the team.

The State of Maryland uses the Response to Intervention (RTI) model which focuses on supporting students that demonstrate difficulty meeting the grade level outcomes because of the academic rigor or interrupting behaviors. The model is a multi-tiered data driven approach towards supporting academic achievement and positive behavioral performance. RTI supports the identification of students in need of support through universal screening. This is the first tier and step where the physical educator assesses all the students using a standard-based grade level assessment tool. In tier one the students receive the instruction of the curriculum and are meeting the curricular benchmarks through enrichment activities. If during this process the child demonstrates being at risk of academic failure; the educational team meets to review the data and discuss strategic instructional or behavioral interventions leading into tier 2. After defining the problem and identifying interventions, the team implements the strategies. If the strategies are successful, the team continues and if not they reconvene to discuss a more individualized and intensive method of intervention indicated in tier 3. During tier 3, the child may receive the instruction in a small group within the general education setting and/or with more guidance. The child’s learning style is examined for identifying more intensive interventions that scaffold and individualize instruction. If the interventions are successful, continue or move the child back to tier 2. After six to twelve weeks of tier 3 interventions being unsuccessful, the educational team can consider referring the child for an assessment to determine eligibility for special education services through an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a Section 504 plan of the Rehabilitation Act. It is important to note that the RTI model may not be used to delay the identification of children with disabilities and a child may be referred for an evaluation for special education eligibility at any time. To be eligible for special education services, the child must be found as having one or more of the fourteen federally identified disability categories based on multi-confirming data.

If at any point interventions or strategies are successful the process either stops or slows down for a period of monitoring and analysis. Following the public school’s procedures, an Adapted Physical Educator should be contacted for consultation and an informal observation. The educational team will then have a referral meeting that identifies the concerns based on data and interventions and explains the assessments that will be administered in the areas at risk. The Adapted Physical Educator or Physical Educator will administer the standardized assessment with anecdotal notes and share the results with the educational team within 60 days of gaining permission to assess. It is at this eligibility meeting where the team will decide if the student is eligible for an IEP or 504 plan based on the data, discussion, medical or outside reports, etc. During the development of the IEP or 504 plan, the team will discuss the amount of service and the specific support systems that will be provided keeping the least restrictive environment in mind.

For more information on RTI:

Transition Planning

Preparing for the transition out of High School starts earlier than you think. How will you support your child or student’s continued leisure in the community? Effective transition is based on the individuals’ needs, and consists of coordinated activities in the following areas: education, career, community, communication, social interaction, recreation, and leisure. Not every transition program will be the same; it is dependent upon the individual.

The first crucial element in a successful transition is for the student’s individualized education program (IEP) team to have a well-developed and defined vision based on the student’s strengths, needs, and preferences. A transition plan is required for students enrolled in special education who have an IEP. Part 300 Subpart D Section 300.320.b of the 2004 revision for IDEA states that any student with an IEP must have a transition plan when the IEP takes effect no later than the age of 16. In Maryland, State regulations require the transition planning to begin no later than age 14 [COMAR 13A.05.01.09A(3)(a)]. The transition plan may be developed earlier if determined by the IEP team. It must be updated annually. The transition plan must include appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon an age appropriate transition assessment related to training education, employment, independent living skills, and recreation for an active healthy lifestyle. By the end of their high school career the students should be leaving with a personalized transition plan similar to how the students in the general Physical Education courses leave with a personalize fitness plan. The student’s educational services must assist the student reaching the goals.

Transition related skills connected to the Maryland State Curriculum for Physical Education include:

  • Knowledge of the skills, rules, and safety procedures for the activity
  • Knowledge of personalized fitness plan connected to improved health and wellness
  • Knowledge for the location of the activity
  • Ability to use public or private transportation to access the community activity
  • Ability to independently perform the leisure and/or recreational activity
  • Demonstrates appropriate social interaction and positive attitudes
  • Knowledge for appropriate clothing attire
  • Demonstrates comfort and motivation for accessing the desired community activities

It isn’t enough to simply be aware that teenagers need guidance to transition successfully from high school to the next phase of young adulthood; concrete steps must be taken to guide and prepare teens for life after high school. Without this guidance, students with intellectual disabilities and their families often have difficulty making the transition out of high school.

A transition plan is developed overtime with the student, family, and educational team. There are several aspects that need to be considered and a sequence of events that need to occur before, during, and after the development of this plan.

Components to consider:

Family survey: provides the transition planning team with the knowledge of how the members in the household are currently physically activity and how they want to be if not already.

Personal Selection: Using an appropriate method of communication, the student will indicate which activities are favorable to engage in and then will narrow the selection down to a maximum of 3. If a student is not able to communicate favorable activities, they should be chosen by the transition planning team based on the family survey, classroom observation, and the planning team members’ input.

Top-Down Guide: Using the information gathered from the various forms of data collection, the planning team will develop a top-down guide. This guide first focuses on what physical activities the student wants to participate in beyond high school and then identifies the skills needed for the student to work on for successful participation as independently as possible. It is important to note that the successful participation may be a modified or adapted version of the authentic activity, but still enhances the student’s emotional wellness, physical health, and cognitive intellect. The guide provides the direction and should include the following information:

  • A maximum of 3 personally favorable lifetime physical activities
  • A local location with contact information for each of the personally favorable lifetime physical activities
  • A means of transportation to the personally favorable lifetime physical activities
  • The cost and means of paying for the personally favorable lifetime physical activities
  • Appropriate equipment and/or clothing needed for each of the personally favorable lifetime physical activities
  • The frequency of participation per week and the amount of time per session, the student will engage in each of the personally favorable lifetime physical activities
  • A list of skills necessary for the student to become proficient in for successful engagement in each of the personally favorable lifetime physical activities. This includes social-emotional, cognitive, and psychomotor skills.

Six Steps

  1. All the transition planning team members agree to take an active role towards supporting the developmental and implementation
  2. Compile and analyze the data collected
  3. Develop the transition plan which includes the top-down guide
  4. Monitor the transition plan (it is an ongoing document and can be modified at any time)
  5. The educational team will provide informational resources to the family
  6. Review at least once a year and revise the transition plan as needed

Goal Setting and Physical Activity

According to the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) body mass index (BMI) is a measure used to determine if a child is overweight or obese. It is calculated using a child's weight and height. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but it is a reasonable indicator of body fatness for most children and teens. Overweight has been defined as a BMI that is at or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. Obesity has been defined as a BMI that is at or above the 95thpercentile for children of the same age and sex.

In recent years, the United States government has been widely concerned about childhood obesity because of the research collected by national organizations.

  • America has the highest rate of obesity AND childhood obesity among developed nations (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Study).
  • If trends continue, three out of four Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020 (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Study).
  • For the first time in the past 200 years, the current generation of children in the United States is not expected to outlive their parents due to childhood obesity (2005 New England Journal of Medicine study).
  • Obesity costs America $150 billion a year in lost worker productivity and increased healthcare expenses due to diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease (White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity).
  • Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading preventable cause of death in the United States (Center for Disease Control and prevention study).

The CDC continuously conducts research that keeps the government and the American people aware of the percentages. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NAHES) of 2007 – 2008 indicated that 17% of children in the United States are overweight. In September of 2012, Maryland published the State nutrition, physical activity and obesity profile. The profile indicated that 15.6% of adolescence was found to be overweight and 12.2% were determined to be in the obese range. 21.3% of children in Maryland drink one can, bottle, or glass or soda per day. Along with these findings, the children are not eating the recommended fruits and vegetables per day. 20.8% of children are physically active for a total of 60 minute per day and only 20% of children attend daily physical education in an average week. 39.1% of adolescents in Maryland watch television for 3 or more hours per day on an average school day. The results of the research are indicating that children in Maryland are not active enough and are not gaining the recommended nutrients from fruits and vegetables, thus supporting sedentary unhealthy lifestyles. The CDC has determined that children with disabilities are more likely to lead sedentary lifestyles than their same aged peers without disabilities.

For more information please see the National Center on Healthy, Physical Activity, and Disability’s (NCHPAD) website on “Obesity in Youth children with and without disabilities”

It is around this time of moving into a new year that people reflect on their lifestyle and it is very popular to develop personal goals. Often personal goals are related to personal health and wellness. The most difficult part of the goal is maintaining the focus to make it a consistent part of daily life. This year when making a goal, sit down with your family and discuss a goal for the family. Consider the eating and exercise habits of each individual in the family. After you develop your goal make sure it can be measured and provide yourselves with rewards for monthly benchmarks reached. Place the goals in a visible and accessible place like on the refrigerator or in the kitchen, where the entire family can see and monitor the progress toward the goals.

Goal example: By the end of the year, the Johnson family will engage in 15 family physical activity outings where everyone is involved in the activity.

Benchmark: By the end of March, the Johnson family will engage in 4 family physical activity outings

By the end of June, the Johnson family will engage in 8 family physical activity outings

By the end of September, the Johnson family will engage in 12 family physical activity outings

By the end of December, the Johnson family will engage in 15 family physical activity outings

A child with a disability is more likely to engage in physical activity if their family also engages in physical activity and acts as a role model. Starting a family walking club would enhance physical activity in the household. The family can measure steps or miles walked with the goal of accumulating enough miles or steps to walk to a specific destination. Then as a reward the family takes a trip to that destination.

Goals are important to set; unfortunately they are hard to follow through to completion. Consider family or individual barriers that contribute to maintaining an exercise program such as finding time to exercise. Consider developing strategies to address those barriers. This year develop family goals that promote health and wellness and strategies for each member of the family to support each other in reaching the family goals.

Fitness and Athletic Equity Act

When freshman enter high school, they are encouraged to participate in school-wide clubs, interscholastic athletics and other student activities. This was the case for Tatyana McFadden in 2004 and has made a lasting impression on the State of Maryland since. Tatyana is an individual born with a spinal cord impairment. In 2004, at the age of 15 she participated at the Athens Paralympics, participating in the T54 100 meter and 200 meter races. The International Paralympic Committee defined the T54 classification as “athletes will have normal arm muscle power with a range of trunk muscle power extending from partial trunk control to normal trunk control.” These athletes do not have voluntary muscle control in their legs and use a wheelchair for mobility. Tatyana won the silver medal in the 100meter and the bronze in the 200 meter races. Entering her freshman year of high school, she joined her track team as encouraged to during the orientation. She practiced with the track team every day after school, but was not given a team uniform at the first meet of the year. When it was her time to race, the entire meet would stop so that she could perform her event alone and her scores would not be included with the over-all team's score towards the medals. Tatyana, a medalist at the Paralympics months earlier, now couldn’t even be considered an equal member of her high school track team. Tatyana’s family sued the State of Maryland for equal access to school athletics for individuals with disabilities. Four years later in 2008, the Maryland Senate and House passed the Fitness and Athletic Equity for Students with Disabilities Act (FAESDA).

FAESDA ensures that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to try out for and, if selected, participate in mainstream athletic programs. It ensures that reasonable accommodations are provided for equal opportunity to participate to the fullest extent possible in mainstream athletic programs. The Act also ensures that additional athletic programs be made available. The State Board of Education has allowed the local school systems to develop and administer the additional athletic programs. The local school systems have adopted different programs such as: allied sports, adapted sports, unified sports, PALS or corollary sports. All the programs follow the principles of the law and they are inclusive in nature. Students without disabilities participate on the same team as the students with disabilities. A major rule is that no player may participate in the same sport on two different teams. For example, an individual on the high school baseball or softball team may not also participate on the unified softball team.

Special Olympics has supported the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) by funding the fees for coaches and the development of the programs under unified sports. Prince George’s County offers unified softball, bocce, and track and field. In 2011, Baltimore County offered allied bowling, softball, and soccer. Howard County also uses the allied sports program offering the same sport programs as Baltimore County, plus golf. Montgomery County has named their program Corollary Sports providing their students with team handball, unified bocce, and allied softball. All the counties in the State have adopted an inclusive program and I highly recommend that you inquire about what is available in your region of the State.

For more information about the Act:


Assessment is nothing new to education, but since No Child Left Behind, educational professionals have been held more accountable for proving growth and success through various forms of assessment. States, boards of education, administrators, teachers, and students are all being held accountable. Physical Education and Adapted Physical Education is no different.

In 2011, I took the Maryland State Department of Education Adapted Physical Education online course (more information about this course will be provided at the end of this blog). Through posts from my peers, I found that many Physical Educators struggle with knowledge of various assessments and assessment methods. Those individuals learned a great deal from the course, but I felt it to be a worthy topic for my blog.

Standardized assessments are administered and scored using a consistent or “standard” method. These assessments are researched for validity and reliability so that the questions/tasks, conditions for administering, scoring, procedures, and interpretations are consistent. Thus a 10 year old in Maryland should be assessed and scored using the same methods as a 10 year old in California. The students’ score can be compared to specific criteria making the tool criterion referenced or their scores can be compared to a specific population (10 year olds with intellectual disabilities). When the score is compared to the specific population it is considered norm referenced.

Standardized assessments will be used when determining initial and continued (at least every 3 years) eligibility for Adapted Physical Education services. A student may be referred for this testing after the Physical Educator and the educational team has developed a response to intervention (RTI) plan to support the student towards meeting the grade level student learning objectives indicated in the state and local Physical Education curriculum. If the student continues to demonstrate difficulty, the IEP team (which includes the parents/guardians) will refer for a standardized gross motor assessment.

Popular standardized assessment tools that can be used are: The Battelle Developmental Inventory – 2 (BDI-2) for children birth through 7 years 11 months; The Test of Gross Motor Development – 2 (TGMD-2) for children 3 years through 10 years 11 months; The Brockport Physical Fitness Test (BPFT) for children 10 years through 17 years old; and the FitnessGram is recommended for children ages 10 years through 17 years old. There are many more standardized assessment tools used throughout the state and the country and it is important to understand which tool will be used and how the child will be scored. As a parent it is important to ask questions for a clear understanding. As a teacher it is important to research the various tools and ask for support if it is new to your respective position.

Assessments that are not standardized are equally important to administer for monitoring progress. These non-standardized tools are considered informal forms of assessment and can be used as documentation that a child is struggling. The Maryland Adapted Physical Education Consortium has developed the Maryland State Inventory that is aligned to the state curriculum. The inventory is a checklist of state indicators for kindergarten through high school skills. Counties such as Harford and Prince George’s have also developed standard based rubrics from kindergarten through high school. Rubrics are tools that have specific progressive criteria on a scale of four that allows the educators, students and parent to clearly understand the child’s present level of performance and what components of the skill the child continues to need to work on. It communicates an expectation of quality around a task, most often a four being proficient and a one indicating the child is not yet demonstrating components of the skill. I had the opportunity to present on rubrics at the Maryland Association of Health Physical Education Recreation and Dance convention on October 19th and 20th. It was a wonderful conference for Physical Educators, Adapted Physical Educators and parents. For more information please see:

Other forms of informal assessments are: journal entries, photos (with parent permission), video (with parent permission), checklists, portfolios, transition plans, family surveys, worksheets, collaboration, discussion, student reflection, etc. Assessments can be teacher-assessed, peer-assessed, or self-assessed.

Assessment is a very in-depth topic of conversation. In closing, I continue to urge parents and educators to keep a positive on-going line of communication. If at any time either party has concerns about the child’s ability to meet the grade level student learning objectives, data should be collected. The educational team should develop a response to intervention (RTI) plan that provides support to the child. If the RTI plan is not successful, then the parent or Physical Educator should contact the special education coordinator in the school to refer the child for testing in the area of gross motor. At this time the Physical Educator or an Adapted Physical Educator will administer the standardized assessment tool.

It is important to note that assessment is an ongoing process and should be used to monitor progress.

Adapted Physical Education

Adapted Physical Education has been around in public schools under different names for many years, long before I was born. The American Association for Heath, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) defined it in 1952 as “a diversified program of developmental activities, games, sports, and rhythms, suited to the interests, capacities, and limitations of students with disabilities who may not safely or successfully engage in unrestricted participation in the vigorous activities of the general physical education program (Seaman, Depauw, Morton, and Omoto, 2003, pg.3).” The program is adapted to meet the needs of each student through modifications and accommodations. The student is not required to adapt to the conditions of the program as would be implied with adaptive physical education as in adaptive behaviors.

Adapted Physical Education has been through many transformations and continues to evolve. The service is provided using various methods throughout the country, and even throughout the State of Maryland. Each district in each State has a personal service of delivery model that best fits their local school system. None of the various methods are wrong if the students’ individual needs are being met in the least restrictive environment.

The least restrictive environment is the location that best supports student successful engagement with accommodations in place. The general education setting is the first environment to consider along the spectrum of least restrictive environments. For students with severe and profound disabilities, the home and hospital setting may be the least restrictive environment and is on the other end of the spectrum.

The ultimate goal for Adapted Physical Education is to support students in the most appropriate Physical Education program as designed and specified by the educational team so that the student may enhance knowledge, values, and ability to live an active healthy lifestyle as independently as possible. This may mean participating in physical activities in the community, engaging in physical activity such as dancing during celebratory event, walking with family or friends through the community, successfully performing the physical requirements of a job/daily chores, performing functional tasks, or enhancing the quality of life through stretching, shifting weight, or maintain posture.

In 2010, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) developed a position statement for determining eligibility for Adapted Physical Education services. It states that “Students may receive service is their comprehensive score is 1.5 standard deviations below the mean on a norm-referenced test, or at least two years below age level on criterion-referenced tests or other tests of physical and motor fitness.” Specific standardized tests will be discussed in future blogs.

Defining what a highly qualified Adapted Physical Educator is currently in debate, but some common elements of those discussions are individuals who achieve in becoming Certified Adapted Physical Educators (C.A.P.E) through the Adapted Physical Education National Standards (APENS) organization ( Professionals in the field also discuss having a Master degree in Adapted Physical Education or taking continuing education courses would support becoming highly qualified.

If your child/student is found to be eligible, it is important and highly recommended that the Adapted Physical Education or Physical Education teacher and parent/guardians develop a positive rapport that fosters open communication. Communication is a key aspect to knowing your students and designing the most appropriate lesson. It is also essential for parents to know what to work on and how to work on specific skills at home. Setting common goals and determining appropriate instructional strategies that are used consistently throughout all settings is in the best interest of the students/children. Whether you’re an educational professional or parent, I highly recommend opening lines of communication.

National Association for Sport and Physical Education (2010). Eligibility criteria for adapted physical education services. Retrieved August 27, 2012,

Seaman, J.A., Depauw, K.P., Morton, K.B., and Omoto, K. (2003). Making connections: From theory to practice in adapted physical education. Scottsdale, AZ: Holcomb Hathaway Publishing. Pg. 3

"The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Aspergers"

While soaking in the sun enjoying some rest and relaxation this summer; I read “The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s” by Temple Grandin. The book is a collection of articles that Temple has written over the years. Temple is an individual with Autism and the articles provide a clear perspective from the eyes of an individual with Autism or Asperger. When Temple was young, Autism was not widely known. As she grew into an adult, she required the support of her mother, educators and colleagues. With this support Temple has been able earn a doctorate degree in animal science. She became famous for designing sweeping curved corrals that reduce stress of cattle.

The first part of the book documents an interview where Temple says “One of the things I used to do was dribble sand through my hands and closely watch the sand; studying each particle like a scientist looking under a microscope. When I did that I could tune the whole world out. It was calming (pg. xxii). ” This is one of example of how Temple provides meaning behind the behaviors we often see. In her opinion the autism and Asperger traits allowed individuals like Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, and Bill Gates to develop their brilliant ideas and concepts. Temple states “the best thing a parent of a newly diagnosed child can do is to watch their child without preconceived notions and judgments, and learn how the child functions, acts, and reacts to his or her world.” It is important to remember that the label of Autism or Aspergers is useful for obtaining services or gain financial aid services, but it does not define the child nor should it dictate the program the child is placed in (pg. 9). Temple explains that there are multiple ways that individuals think and indicates that she is a visual thinker versus others who are music and math thinkers or verbal logic thinkers. In my personal reflection of this chapter, I find that I am also a visual thinker more than the others. This is where an individual thinks in pictures. A popular instructional strategy that parents and teachers use are picture communication symbols (pcs). “Good teachers understand that for a child to learn, the teaching style must match the student’s learning style (p. 24).” Temple doesn’t think that teachers should try to turn children with autism into clones of their typical peers, but rather teach the academics and interpersonal skills they need to be functional in the world. Support the enhancement of their skills so that they can use their talents to the best of their ability. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Temple speaks about teaching concepts such as danger. She indicates that it is hard to understand a concept such as danger because it is not a concrete concept. It is important to use a teaching technique that generalizes the concept. Temple says “I did not understand that being hit by a car would be dangerous until I saw a squashed squirrel in the road and my nanny told me that it has been run over by a car (pg. 32).” For Temple to learn how to look both ways before crossing the street, she had to be provided multiple opportunities to practice the skill in various locations. This is why communication between parents and teachers is vital. Children with autism need to be taught in various settings but the teaching should also occur with a consistent structure. Teachers should listen to the parents’ needs, develop a common goal, and educate the parents on instructional strategies to meet the goal. As the school year begins, I encourage both parents and teachers to develop a welcoming and respectful line of communication. This form of communication will lead to a successful year.

Grandin, T. (2008). The way I see it: A personal look at autism & asperger’s. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons, Inc.