Definition of Physical Education
While physical education may have many definitions, the definition, as it applies specifically to students who have disabilities, appears in the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142) and later within the Individuals with Disabilities Act (PL 101-476). Here, physical education is defined as follows: "The term (physical education) means development of: (A) physical and motor fitness; (B) fundamental motor skills and patterns, and (C) skills in aquatics, dance, individual and group games and sports (including intramural and lifetime sports). (Federal Register 1997, 42480)
Qualifications of an Adapted Physical Education Teacher
The Adapted Physical Education (APE) teacher is an educationally trained professional who is able to assess individual students and develop, adapt and implement specialized physical education programs in the motor domain.
The APE teacher is a direct service provider, not a related service provider, because special education is a federally mandated component of special education services. (U.S.C.A. 1402). This means that physical education needs to be provided to the student with a disability as part of the child's special education. This is contrasted with physical therapy and occupational therapy, which are related services.
If specially designed instruction, such as adapted physical education (APE), is required in a student's Individual Education Program (IEP), then the services must be provided by a qualified teacher. A certified physical educator is legally qualified to provide adapted physical education for students who require specialized physical education as defined in the IEP. Adapted Physical Education certification is not required in Colorado. However, it is suggested that the teacher providing APE services become Nationally Certified through the National Consortium for Physical Education and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities, earning a CAPE (Certified Adapted Physical Education) certification. Course work in APE is strongly recommended and additional education and/or experience in special education would be beneficial.
Adapted Physical Education Service Provision
As a direct service, Adapted Physical Education is provided to students who have needs that cannot be adequately addressed in the regular physical education program. In addition to APE, other service delivery options include APE collaboration and APE consultation, specially designed physical education, modified physical education, and general physical education.
Provision of APE is based on the same process of referral, assessment, and individual program planning that other special education services follow. An assessment and evaluation of motor skills performance is considered by the IEP team in determining how specialized physical education is to be delivered.
Federal law guarantees the opportunity for students to participate in physical education regardless of physical, cognitive, or emotional abilities. Finding the least restrictive environment (LRE) for each learner is both a federal mandate and a best practice. The environment is considered to be least restrictive when it matches individual abilities and appropriate services and provides students with as much independence as possible.
Responsibilities of the Adapted Physical Education Teacher
- Completing comprehensive motor assessments of individuals with disabilities and making specific program recommendations
- Providing direct services to students who are eligible and in need of APE
- Consult with physical education staff providing physical education instruction for individuals with disabilities
- Consult with other IEP team members about student need in the area of APE
- Serve as an IEP member at IEP meetings
- Monitor student progress
- Advocate for the student and parent
The Colorado Department of Education Adapted Physical Education listserv supports APE’s: 1) by providing information and news regarding the profession; 2) by announcing professional development and training opportunities; and, 3) by posting school-based job openings. There are no advertisements from vendors or contract-based companies. This service is also chat-free.
Join today by contacting Jayne Dougherty at Dougherty_j@cde.state.co.us
Adapted Physical Education Advisory Council
The Exceptional Student Services consultant for APE along with regional APE representatives who comprise the Adaptive Physical Education Advisory Council, meet throughout the year to inform the Colorado Department of Education on statewide APE professional learning and technical assistance needs and assist in the development of guidance materials to support the profession.
- APE Manual - Colorado Guidelines for Adapted Physical Education (currently under review)
- Fast Fact: APE (currently under review)
- Websites (PDF)
For more information, please contact:
Jayne Dougherty, Principal Consultant OT/PT/APE
Phone: (303) 866-6668
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