July 2007 - Adapted Physical Education & AT: To Play or Not to Play
Adapted Physical Education & AT: To Play or Not to Play
In this Issue...
That is the question that adapted physical education, often with the crucial aid of assistive technology, can answer.
In Pennsylvania, Beverly Martin long ago found the answer: With the help of assistive technology, play is the thing for children in her classes with severe and profound disabilities.
A certified adapted physical educator (CAPE) who has met national certification standards set since 1991 by Adapted Physical Education National Standards (APENS), Beverly has employed AT for the 23 years she has taught adapted physical education (APE) to youngsters in public schools in Pennsylvania’s Butler Lawrence and Mercer counties.
For Beverly, however, assistive technology is both high and low tech. In her physical education classes, according to a recent article in the Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “metal washers, those tiny fasteners found in hardware store bins, become weights for lifting; high tech hovering disks substitute for balls for easy kicking.”
For each type of student with disabilities, the article continues, “Mrs. Martin has equipment that brings enjoyment and, perhaps, a sense of accomplishment. A simple example is a bowling ramp. Students are placed near the ramp, and can roll the ball down it onto the lane. A child who can’t grasp a bowling ball might be able to nudge one down the ramp.”
Today, however, an increasing number of educators trained in adapted physical education – a growing number of whom are APENS certified -- are applying their training nationwide. The result: aided by the AT students are accustomed to using, plus less sophisticated AT like that employed by Bev Martin in her classes, more children with severe and profound disabilities are experiencing the exultation of play and the health benefits of physical activity. This issue examines the role of assistive technology in adapted physical education.
Dr. Timothy Davis Speaks
A Nevada native, Tim’s first college experience was at a small junior college in northern California, which he attended in order to play football and baseball. “While I was there I took an introductory course in physical education. I enjoyed it and thought that I’d pursue physical therapy as a career.” He made himself available in the training room to assist the head trainer who was a physical therapist and worked with adults in post-cardiac rehab and traumatic brain injury. “I loved the work with him. The following semester he needed to hire a coordinator for that program and I was a natural fit.”
Next Tim studied adapted physical education at Cal State/Chico where he earned his PE and APE certification and a Masters degree in adapted PE. When he graduated, Tim’s dad, Larry, had a surprise for him. “He handed me a book he had written for the Nevada Department of Education entitled, Adapted Physical Education. He had a background in physical education that I was completely unaware of.”
Tenured in 2004, Tim has taught at Cortland for eight years. He fulfilled his doctoral requirements at the University of Virginia under Dr. Luke Kelly and Dr. Martin Block, two noted authorities in the APE field. Dr. Kelly is the primary author of the original APENS project. Tim’s dissertation was the validation of the project’s content and also of the APENS exam.
In 1991, when the APENS project began, Tim recounts, “My father phoned me from Virginia, where he was working with NASDE, and told me that NASDE was holding an action seminar on APE. He said they were inviting state directors of special ed and university professionals, including Luke Kelly, to develop content. I was running a wheelchair sports program at Chico called Ability First. My father said, ‘Why don’t you do a presentation for the NASDE seminar?’ Special Olympics International was involved as were NASADE and APHERD. Arnold Schwarzenegger was presenting under the banner of Special Olympics. He was the keynote speaker. My presentation followed his. That was some act to follow, and I was nervous. I walked up to the podium and spilled a pitcher of water all over my notes and had to wing the presentation. I made an impression, however. When I applied for the doctoral program at UVA I mentioned in my letter to Luke Kelly that I had been a presenter at the NASDE seminar. Luke replied, “You’re the one who spilled the pitcher of water!”
Today, in addition to his teaching duties, Tim is national chairman of APENS, which is housed at SUNY/Cortland. He’s an aggressive advocate for nationwide standards for adapted physical education teachers.
Supporting our interview with Dr. Davis are resources to assist parents and others in furthering their knowledge of the role of assistive technology in adapted physical education. We also feature members of our Knowledge Network. The members spotlighted this month focus on adapted physical education supported by the use of assistive technology. We invite you to contact these members for further information.
Please share this newsletter with other organizations, families and professionals who may benefit from it. We invite you to contact us at http://www.fctd.info. We welcome feedback, new members and all who contribute to our growing knowledge base.
Adapted Physical Education and AT: An “Unbelievably Strong Link”
“The link between adapted physical education and assistive technology is unbelievably strong and will only get stronger as the years pass,” declares Dr. Tim Davis, associate professor of adapted physical education (APE) at SUNY/Cortland and APENS chairman. “Individualized education is the crux of what APE teachers are trying to achieve. AT makes individualization so much easier, so appropriate and so exciting.”
APE teachers, he claims, clearly have a positive impact on children. “Kids with disabilities need us. They have a higher propensity toward obesity and often live sedentary lifestyles. Adapted physical education professionals can see what devices the child is using in order to level the playing field and to participate equally with non-disabled peers. Our training provides us with the creativity to draw the child and his AT support into a dynamic new setting: physical education.”
By the same token, he continues, “well-read, well-trained adapted physical education professionals are aware of modified equipment that falls under the broad definition of AT, equipment that might enable a child to learn, for example, how to ride his specialized bike, in order to recreate on a daily basis.” The child may not have gotten that opportunity if an adapted physical education professional had not been involved in the process, he asserts.
“So much of what we do in the area of homemade modified equipment falls under the definition of assistive technology,” he remarks. Adapted physical educators like Pennsylvania’s Beverly Martin, he notes, have an extensive knowledge of sophisticated AT and AT that is, or can be, homemade. “Effective adapted physical educators look at the functional capabilities of the child – the ability, not necessarily the disability.”
Zeroing in on Ability
To narrow the scope of AT to the communication devices and electronic devices typically found in a special education classroom is wrong, he asserts. “Too often AT is perceived as those devices only. That’s not so. All too often what happens before children with disabilities come to physical education, especially the children with severe physical disabilities, is that their supportive equipment is stripped from them. The Big Mac switch is removed, which enabled them to say yes or no or thank you or let’s go or whatever we program into it to enable children to express themselves. We pull that technology away for fear of breaking it. Often the PE teacher has no idea what to do with the equipment anyway. “
Adapted physical education teachers take an entirely different approach, he says. “Instead of stopping the whole class to work with one child, we can engage this child with severe and profound disabilities in a general education environment and make that environment the least restrictive. AT enables us to achieve that result.”
“We find that if there is an adapted PE teacher available those traditional barriers are quickly broken. Conversely, when no adapted PE teacher is available we find that child receiving some sort of modified or adapted PE in a separate setting with a person, albeit kind, caring and well-meaning, who was assigned this responsibility but who lacks the requisite training to make the activity beneficial.”
What Is APE?
“We provide a host of services to a public school system. Those services include assessment, data collection, IEP development, placement in least restrictive environment decisions in regard to the IEP process, advocacy for children and parents, community participation in transition to the community and, perhaps most importantly, direct service teaching children with disabilities in a dynamic physical education environment.”
Adapted PE is often confused with its adaptive counterpart. There’s an important distinction between the two, he says. According to Tim, “Adaptive deals primarily with behavior and is commonly found in psychology literature. Adapted is usually associated with curriculum modifications in equipment and has been adopted by many in the athletics community.”
In the past 10 years the view of physical education has changed greatly, he asserts. “The traditional view of ”gym teachers” is of a heavy set, crew-cut coach wielding a whistle and rolling out the ball. Although commonplace – we often see physical educators portrayed this way in the media – this view, he notes, does not accurately represent today’s more sophisticated physical educators, including adapted physical educators.”
Driven By Standards
In 1991, he recalls, the APE profession realized that it lacked a set of standards. The information taught at the university level to earn a degree “was and is a separate set of knowledge that begins with a strong foundation in physical education but concludes with specific knowledge about the unique learners we service.”
To bridge that gap, a set of 15 standards was developed in 1991. Subsequently, across those 15 content standards close to 800 specific knowledge statements were written. The APENS standards have been constantly updated since then. “We now have a national certification exam through which teachers can earn a CAPE certificate and demonstrate their qualifications under a state or national definition depending on a teacher’s state and district and on which school administrator is interpreting the requirements of federal IDEA law or No Child Left Behind legislation.”
What has kept adapted physical education in the schools, he explains, is that under federal law, special education is a direct service and adapted physical education exists under the special education umbrella.
“We are, in fact, a direct service. All too often APE is confused with related services such as occupational and physical therapy, consequently, school districts may regard adapted physical education as ancillary.” “We have advocated nationwide on behalf of adapted physical education for children with disabilities because the service is required.”
The APENS mission is to put a certified adapted physical educator (CAPE) in every school district in the nation, which amounts to about 14,000 school districts. “If we can achieve that goal we would feel confident that there would be a knowledgeable physical education professional in each district who can help make appropriate decisions in regard to children with disabilities and physical activity, not only lifetime physical activity but daily physical education as well.”
Parallels with Special Ed
He cautions his students “to be wary when they are being interviewed for a teaching position and the interviewer tells them that their resume looks great because they can perform so many diverse teaching tasks. I tell them, ‘Chances are, if you teach in a school district that values your diversity they will likely ask you to do many things.’ Teachers who are born jugglers can fit into that environment. Others, especially teachers just emerging from a training program, may be overwhelmed.”
A 1991 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) provided the initial funds to develop APENS. Sponsored by the National Consortium for Physical Education and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities (NCPERID) APENS has been self-sustaining ever since. “We regard that accomplishment as a feather in the cap of adapted physical education. Often in a school district adapted physical education teachers are isolated and itinerant, traveling from school to school. This is a way to provide a unified national voice for them and for our profession.”
AT Is the Key to Engagement
The most apt comparison in his opinion “is between life without the Internet and life with the Internet. It’s that black and white between physical education for children with disabilities with assistive technology and without assistive technology. If children with disabilities have AT, from the lowest of low tech to the highest of high tech, they are engaged. If they lack AT they are not engaged.”
“It’s so rewarding to see a children blossom in terms of their self-esteem because they have a way to interact with the world around them. That level of interaction often requires a modified piece of equipment or higher tech AT. “If it’s in the area of lifetime physical activity that equipment might be a specialized road-racing chair, a row-cycle, or a modified or adapted piece of climbing equipment.”
Beverly Martin personifies the model adapted PE teacher. Mrs. Martin in 2007 was named Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year by the Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education and Dance. “Bev is a nationally certified adapted PE teacher, a CAPE. I was happy to see that her efforts have been recognized in Pennsylvania.”
“She is a genius at creating low tech adaptations. So are other APE teachers. I’m talking about very simplistic adaptations, like using a rubber band to hold a pencil. I often tell my students that the rubber band is one of the greatest inventions in world history. It’s the simplest form of assistive technology; it enables me to hold a pen or pencil in my hand without a grip. Nylons can have the same impact. We can do so many things with a rolled up nylon or other common place items to enhance the physical activity of a child with disability. It simply requires the passion and ingenuity of a certified adapted physical educator or CAPE.
Virtual Sports for Rural Kids
Many APE teachers are employing that level of technology to engage their kids in vigorous virtual physical activity, Tim explains. “Computer based board games have spawned online sport competitions, like virtual tennis, between individuals with more significant disabilities. These kids are playing. Without the technology that interaction would not occur.”
“There are always those who criticize this technology because it is virtual -- kids play indoors. But if you are a child with disabilities in Pahrump, NV, for instance, and you are the one person with your disability in a 600-700-mile radius, it’s very difficult to find programs in which to participate in any way other than virtually.”
In urban and suburban areas there are indeed wonderful opportunities for children with disabilities to participate in person with their peers in sport-based programs, like wheelchair sports for example, he notes, but not yet in rural settings.
A Difficult Request
“It’s a difficult request,” Tim declares. “I’ve seen it in Alaska, where we do a lot of work with the Anchorage city school district. Anchorage is a big city, yes, but the outlying areas are as rural as rural can be by 21st century American standards.” The adapted PE teachers there, he points out, often fly in to serve school districts. They travel with physical and occupational therapists to tiny isolated villages. Once there, these professionals, including CAPEs, train individuals who will remain and continue with the program. Technology, specifically the internet has linked these isolated teachers and families to a world of resources. CAPE consultants help to bring the virtual to reality.
“It’s a consultation model, not a direct service model,” he notes. “It’s a supervisory role in which a CAPE would have the knowledge to develop an IEP with an appropriate set of goals and objectives based on sound assessment data, an ecological inventory of occurrences in the child’s world, in her school and home, so that we get a reading on her physical activity beyond PE. In that way we see functional, generalizable goals and objectives that reach out into the community.”
“For instance, if an IEP goal for an Alaskan child is participation in the native games of Alaska, the CAPE would have knowledge of that and would know that the child’s family participates in those games. This is a cultural piece that we want to make sure that we capture. Therefore, it becomes part of the IEP process and part of what’s important for the child to learn.”
CAPEs, he adds, often wear their advocacy hats when in a rural situation. “We are itinerant and are providing consultation only to the individuals who are providing direct service. Wearing the advocacy hat enables us to expand on our normal status as adapted physical education teachers.”
Forging Partnerships with School Districts
If a parent of a child with disabilities happens to reside near a university that has an adapted physical education course or program, partnering with that university can be very advantageous.
“Our experience has shown that school districts desire these partnerships. Universities want these partnerships as well. They are a win-win for everyone involved.”
Unfortunately, he points out, in rural areas opportunities to develop partnerships using this model do not abound. With few training programs in physical education/adapted physical education for states such as Alaska, it is difficult to find highly qualified individuals to teach children with disabilities. It would seem that other locations in the lower 48, like Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, northern New Hampshire and Maine, for example, share the same problem of rural remoteness and would also require CAPE professionals to either deliver services or provide consultation.
“We see a parallel in special education where parents in rural states and counties have created alliances in special education to ensure that the services their children need are provided and to make sure that parents and children have a voice with which to tell the state, ‘We need the equipment and the personnel to provide service out here because we are not going to pack up and leave the life we love to relocate to a major metropolitan area where services are available.’”
These rural alliances are in place and proliferating, with some alliances more formal in structure than others. “Visible in those special alliances is a vein of adapted physical education. Some, but not many, of the individuals tending to those veins are CAPEs.”
California, Tim notes, mandates that a teacher must have a Masters in adapted PE to teach adapted PE. There are a handful of five or six states, he says, that require a state certification to teach adapted PE.
The CAPE certificate is an advanced certification, above and beyond an existing Masters degree. “An individual who comes out of school with three credits in adapted PE and took his special ed class rarely earns a CAPE certificate by passing the APENS exam.” The typical individual who passes the APENS exam possesses at least six years of teaching experience, is professionally involved, and has earned at least 12 credits in adapted physical education. “The successful CAPE has accumulated a specific knowledge base that demonstrates his/her involvement in and commitment to this profession and to children with disabilities.”
AT Is Part of the CAPE Profile
In New York, all that’s required to teach APE is a teaching license in physical education. In order to have a teaching license in physical education, candidates need to take basic PE courses. Such a course of study might include a three-credit course in adapted PE. Whether the course exists or is mandatory is up to the discretion of the granting institution. New York State has some basic guidelines but they are recommendations only, not mandates – “and that’s unfortunate,” Tim declares.
All Good Physical Education Is Adapted Physical Education
Tim acknowledges the long road ahead, but he is undaunted. “We do have a lot of work to do, but there are some wonderful states, Indiana, for example, that really get it. Indiana has moved to a nine-hour adapted PE requirement for all physical education majors, reverting to the notion that all good physical education is adapted physical education. In other words, all good physical education is individualized. You can say the same about all good teaching: All good teaching is individualized.”
“If we look at some of the general trends in education, we see a trend toward tweaking the curriculum to meet the needs of the individual rather than forcing a child into an existing curriculum model which may be too rigid. That’s a very positive trend.”
“AT is an essential ingredient in the wealth of resources available to teachers today. You can’t even scratch the surface of what is available in a training program. There are so many different models and so many approaches.” Take autism, for example, he says.
“Look at the breadth of behavior approaches, behavioral analyses that have been around for awhile. Then look at the emerging approaches that are linked to AT. Those new, innovative approaches are only going to continue to multiply. The same pattern holds true for other disabilities and for varying ability levels. AT is a very powerful tool and a very effective equalizer.”
“I’ve done three national presentations on the strong link between AT and APE. I did a pre-conference workshop for our national profession that was very well attended and engendered much excitement. Subsequently we’ve seen a variety of smaller articles in our journals about this linkage. Yet I do not believe that enough training programs have embraced it.”
Shying from the Embrace
“In our field, those who are in the training programs now need to revisit that flawed belief. We didn’t have any of this equipment when my generation came through. The vast majority of us were trained before the Internet gained universal usage. We’ve had to learn on the fly. So to us it’s doubly amazing what we can accomplish now with the Web CT e-learning platform, for example, and all the ways we now have at our disposal to deliver our content. That’s another example of assistive technology that we often use but don’t think about.”
The truth is, he notes, “that some of us, even some as young as me, are dinosaurs in many ways. Our approach to higher education can be archaic. We’re the last ones to change. Even though we may think we’re on the cutting edge, we’re not. The teachers on the cutting edge are out in the schools making the necessary linkages and putting them to work for the benefit of children with and without disabilities. They are bringing AT into the life of a child and the child’s family.”
“We are remiss as professionals if we don’t tap into these resources and at the very least expose our college students and put them into hands-on situations so that they can see the application. We are far behind in that regard. To this day, I think, the vast majority of academic programs are paper and book-pushing exercises. It’s going to take some time for education to dispense with that outmoded model and move in the opposite direction. School districts and parents are going to be the driving force behind that sea change in educational approach.”
“In PE it too often is either PE or adapted PE. The theoretical fabric of continuum isn’t there. Two days a week we are in general PE; two days a week we’re in adapted PE. We’ll frequently tell our students one thing at the university level and see them experience something quite different once they are in the schools teaching. For example, adapted PE is listed, for example, as ‘sixth period’ and is now a class instead of a service. It can become a dumping ground.”
“We see children pulled out of physical education in favor of other related services, and that fires me up. Kids, all kids, but especially children with disabilities, need that physical activity so much. There’s confusion even within our own profession about this service vs. class conflict, depending on the scheduling. “
AT: Key to the APE Future
“For the past 20 years we have been saying that children with disabilities are obese and lack opportunities for physical activity. In a few years I envision our profession being far more visible, recognized and valued because APE professionals possess a special set of knowledge that will afford children with disabilities and their families the opportunity to pursue lifetime physical activity. That’s my driving dream.” AT, he concludes, is an integral part of that dream. “Without AT, we will fail. If we embrace AT we will succeed.”
2007 Online Assistive Technology Institute!
Join Dr. Sean Smith, University of Kansas and a faculty of AT experts as we explore:
Transition and AT
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs,
You can register at:
Questions may be sent to:
We look forward to seeing you online!
Introducing the CAPE, the New Member of the Therapeutic Team
Adapted Physical Education and Sport
Adapted Physical Activity Assessment Tests
Teaching, Responding & Communicating Inclusive Physical Education
Therapeutic Recreation Directory
Adapted Physical Education and Disability Sport Web Links
KNOWLEDGE NETWORK MEMBERS
Disabled Sports USA (DS/USA)
For additional information on DS/USA, please contact:
National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD)
For further information on NCPAD, please contact:
State Council on Adapted Physical Education (SCAPE)
American Association of Adapted Sports Programs (AAASP)
For more information on AAASP, please contact:
For more information on YSC, please contact:
New England Handicapped Sports Association (NESHA)
Project Director: Jacqueline Hess