Physical Education (PE) For All!

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Colorful drawings of a diverse array of people wearing masks above tiles that read "inclusion" with sports gear in the bottom of the frame.  Under the Where it's AT logo the text reads Physical Education (PE) For All!

Staying active is important for everyone’s physical and mental health, especially children and teenagers in K-12. It is crucial for children to be active because it helps their muscles develop and grow, and it promotes a positive form of self-care. There are multiple ways to exercise and stay active, but some individuals need Assistive Technology (AT) to exercise and participate in Physical Education (PE) in school. In this blog I will focus on different AT that individuals with different types of disabilities can utilize to participate in physical education courses in K-12.

FlagHouse and Move United are both great companies that sell physical education equipment that is both adaptive and inclusive for all students. Their adaptive equipment allows all students to have a fun time in the field, “FlagHouse’s selection of adapted and inclusive PE products include modified balls and adapted games that allow students to kick, hit and catch with ease.”  Parents can request PE specific AT in their child’s IEP so that their child can have an equitable educational experience to their peers.

A great example of a simple piece of AT that can make a world of difference for a student with a disability are headphones. For students who are sensitive to sound, headphones can make them feel comfortable in a noisy environment such as gym class. This is a great low-cost option that can help individuals participate in PE activities.

A behind shot of a small child with curly blond hair wearing noise cancelling headphones.

For wheelchair users, sport specific wheelchairs and accessible equipment can be purchased to navigate in the field.

A trio of wheelchair users play wheelchair lacrosse.

Students who have vision-based disabilities can more easily participate in PE, if instructors use large, bright, and bold colors.

Two children play with a brightly colored ball.

For students with hearing-based disabilities, Beep balls enable students to hear the ball, giving them the ability to participate with peers in PE activities.

Individuals with hearing-loss can also benefit from hearing devices that help amplify sounds, especially where there’s a lot of background noise. A Frequency modulated (FM) system can use radio signals to transmit sound from a teacher’s microphone to a listening device like headphones, hearing aids or cochlear implants.

A young boy looks off camera while holding a hearing aid while pointing to his ear.

Having AT in a physical education course provides a fully accessible experience for students with disabilities. Not only is accessible PE a point of equity, disabled students have needs that can be met through PE classes, like students who have cerebral palsy having another path to gain muscle strength or students with fine motor disabilities improving dexterity through catching and throwing activities. Students with disabilities rely on AT to make many things possible and it is important for parents and educators to be informed and mindful that AT can also help individuals to get out and play.