"When I started teaching K-6 physical education 10 years ago, my small rural school district did not offer adapted physical education. All 700 of my students, regardless of their ability or disability, were in a traditional PE class with their same-aged peers. During my first five years teaching PE, I absolutely loved my job and my typical students were learning so much and really enjoyed participating in my PE classes. However, I could not say the same for my students with special needs. I had no idea how to teach them so that they could enjoy PE class as much as the other students. I was failing them and needed help. Therefore, I decided to enroll in the adapted physical education program at Wright State University.
As soon as I started my APE classes at Wright State, I became a better teacher. I quickly learned how to modify my lessons, adapt equipment, understand and control emotional outbursts and sensory issues, create new methods of communication, identify current laws and rights, recognize common issues and medical concerns associated with specific disabilities, and learn about programs and resources that exist in neighboring communities. Additionally, almost every night after an APE class, I could connect what I had just learned to a similar situation that had already occurred in my PE class …. a situation that could have easily been avoided if I would have understood how to recognize that student’s needs at that time. Not only did the APE program at Wright State give me the knowledge necessary to teach my students with special needs, it also gave me the confidence to do so … and to help other teachers in my district who were having similar issues.
After years of asking, my school district finally allowed me to start an APE program and officially add APE services to any qualifying student’s IEP. It has become EXTREMELY successful, is truly AMAZING, and is quickly growing in popularity! Now, my students with special needs get to participate in my APE class, where the lesson, equipment, and skill practice is adjusted to each of their individual needs, then they use that knowledge and confidence to participate in that same lesson again the following week (however their second time is with their typical PE classmates). Also, having those students in an APE class gives me the ability to slow the lesson down, understand what they are struggling with, recognize sensory issues, reteach and adjust the skills, modify the equipment, and allow one-on-one time with any student who may be struggling. Creating this APE class at my school has made everyone’s experience in the typical PE class INCREDIBLE. There are no words to express how beneficial the APE program has been to me, my students, and my school district. I am so happy that I enrolled in the adaptive physical education program at Wright State!" —Shannon Christian