Let’s “Get Physical” for your next IEP
PHYSICAL FITNESS and the IEP
I am happy that this issue of PSN focuses on IEPs, because I’ve recently had the opportunity to scour through a few. The purpose of an IEP, by definition and design, is to incorporate a student centered curriculum, or elements of a curriculum, that make sense for him or her. With physical fitness and Adaptive PE, I’ve argued, and continue to argue, that the curriculum as a whole does not make sense, limiting the potential growth and skill development for the individual. Allow me to elaborate.
My 11-year old athlete Nate is a shining example of when a highly adaptive (motivated) individual comes into contact with crud-level programming. In his PE curriculum, Nate engages in competitive games with neurotypical peers. He’s eager to play and is one of those kids who just wants to make you (the instructor or adult in charge) happy. This will likely change when he hits adolescence, but for now it is delightful. Nate has some significant gross motor issues from lower body strength deficits to upper body strength deficits and poor stability in the trunk. This is typical of my Autism Fitness athletes regardless of their adaptive or cognitive abilities.
While he does want to participate in the competitive games, Nate processes the rules, inaction decisions, and flow of the activity much slower than the other students. So, despite the fact that he is around the other students, he’s not getting much out of the activity itself. This is a common misconception; you can immerse a student in any given environment, but they won’t learn by osmosis without the prerequisite skills. To say “Well, the class is working on kickball, tag, etc.” does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the student is either developing the skills necessary to participate OR participating in a meaningful way. They could just be standing there. Standing there is standing there, it is not skill development. I can stand in a bank all day; it doesn’t put anything into my savings account.
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