Nov / 16

Athletics and Special Education: More Than APE?

IEPcontent In The Classroom, News & Discussion, Raising Awareness, Special Education 1

Physical education plays an important role in every child’s development. Participation in school wide physical education increases physical and social growth for all students – including those living with special needs. Students not only benefit from the physical effects of physical education, but can achieve higher self-esteem, understanding of teamwork, sensory relief and better overall mental health.

Unfortunately, achieving inclusive education within physical education and athletic programs is not always successful despite federal laws protecting all students.

Often, students living with disabilities are afforded only the opportunity to participate in an adaptive physical education class (APE) where specialized and modified instruction is provided for physical activities. Often a student’s disability does not impede their ability to participate in group athletics or sports (general education PE or school teams), yet a school may be hesitant to offer more to the student than APE alone.

Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act provides that a school district is required to provide all qualified students with a disability an opportunity to benefit from the school district’s program equal to that of students without disabilities. School athletic programs are considered “district programs” and must follow these same guidelines.

While students may not make a team sport because they lack a required level of skill or ability (for competitive sports), school districts are not allowed to exclude students with disabilities with the requisite skill to compete but needing assistance (for instance, a hearing impairment – the student can compete at the level of competition, but may need an interpreter to assist them with communication).

  • Hundreds of thousands of coaches, educators and volunteers worldwide offer their time to train athletes, organize competitions and plan events. In communities around the world, from the United States to Southeast Asia, Special Olympics athletes and their teammates without intellectual disabilities practice and play together on Unified Sports?

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Donor contributions go to fund community presentations which help educate and empower families to advocate on behalf of their children living with special needs. Additionally, donor contributions fund pro-bono sponsorship of low income families who require legal aide. Donor contributions flow directly to students living with disabilities and their families who fight for the right to a free and appropriate public education.