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Back-to-school story: PE classes for students with disabilities

Integrating students with special needs into the academic classroom has been well covered over the years, so now is a good time to look inside gym classes. Under federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), physical education must be made available equally to children with disabilities as children without. Sometimes a class is adapted to their needs, or students, assisted by adaptive equipment, are enrolled in standard gym classes. The quality of the classes varies widely. Physical activity is 4.5 times lower for children and youth with disabilities compared to their non-disabled peers, which can lead to obesity and other health problems, according to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. And the goal of PE – to learn, practice, and master skills that allow youth to be physically active for a lifetime – is equally important for all students, the council emphasizes.

Sources:Wrightslaw special education newsletter: https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/pe.index.htm

U.S. Department of Education: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/regs/b/b/300.108

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: https://health.gov/news/blog/2012/02/adapted-physical-education/

Education Writers Association: https://www.ewa.org/reporter-guide/standards-ethics-education-reporters

By Susan LoTempio​, board member, National Center on Disability and Journalism
Contact Susan on Twitter @slotempio or via email at slotempio@gmail.com.