The Autism Delaware Google group offered parents the chance to write about the effect of adapted physical education (PE) on their children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Here are the four questions:
• Is your child’s adapted PE experience appropriate for his or her abilities?
• Does your child’s individualized education program (IEP) include an adapted PE goal?
• Do you have any concerns about your child’s participation in PE? If so, what are they?
• Does your child work with an adapted PE teacher, or does the PE teacher consult with an adapted PE teacher?
Parents Michelle Amy and Kristin Mihok responded with similar answers: Both agreed that, yes, their children’s PE experience was appropriate for their abilities. But no, they do not have PE goals in their IEPs, nor do their children have access to adapted PE instruction.
On their concerns about participating in PE, both parents felt it necessary to explain: “I think,” writes Kristin Mihok, “my daughter could benefit from more one-on-one or specialized attention and chunked instructions [massed into one block of relevant information] to gain the most benefit from her PE experience.”
“My son,” adds Michelle Amy, “could use more one-on-one explanation of the rules of a game and what’s expected from the group. He is not able to listen very well in a large group. In health class, it’s worse because my son is so uncomfortable with the topics being discussed that he always jokes about it. He often needs redirection, which is hard for a lone gym teacher to do consistently.
“This email,” continues Amy, “raised some questions for me because I could see an adapted PE teacher being a good thing for my son, to help him learn how to do things other kids have learned already, such as whistling, snap-ping their fingers, and riding a bike. But I bet these PE options are not available to us.”
In contrast, parent Dafne Carnright, who serves as Autism Delaware family service coordinator in Kent and Sussex Counties, said her son’s PE experience was not appropriate for his abilities. But like Amy’s and Mihok’s children, Carnright’s son does not have PE goals in his IEP.
“Despite years of meetings with IEP teams and asking for appropriate, specially designed PE, my child still doesn’t have this,” says Carnright. “To my knowledge, no adapted PE teacher is available.”
Parent Melanie Matusheski says “My son Robert has adaptive PE class twice a week. In each class, the students stretch, walk, and run and then play something, like basketball or soccer. Robert also has an offsite recreational activity once a week: aquatics, bowling, or roller skating.
“I think he enjoys the aquatics and bowling although all the sounds and activity have the potential to overexcite him. Roller skating, he never liked, because he has always been very cautious not to hurt himself. So wheels strapped to his feet—no way!
“Walking and running seem to be his favorite physical activities. When the gym activity is track, it often has a calming effect on him. I’ve noticed this at home as well. When the weather is nice, he really enjoys walking to the park near our house.”
Parent Joy H. Corbett says “My family had requested, at the last IEP meeting in March 2015, that my son have an adapted PE assessment and to incorporate his adapted PE goals into his IEP goals. We attempted several times to persuade the staff of the importance of assisting my son because of some concerns we had with his physical limitations and ability to follow instructions. We were told that they do not provide IEP goals for adapted PE. We asked why and were told that no student has adapted PE goals in his or her IEP.
“We voiced our concerns. I wrote an email on this matter, but failed to send it because of the negative response and uneasy environment we felt at our request for adapted PE goals.
“We also attempted to have adapted PE goals incorporated at [another school] and were given a negative response.
“Further, we asked to observe our son in a PE class and were informed we had to give the PE teacher prior notice. We were sent a picture of our son in PE class instead.”
This text was edited for consistency of language and message and appears in the April–June 2016 issue of the Autism Delaware™ quarterly newsletter, The Sun.