Phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion is for stu­dents with ex­cep­tion­al­i­ties, too

The Beacon (Gander) - - News -

Mi­nor­ity groups, such as stu­dents with phys­i­cal and in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties and ex­cep­tion­al­i­ties, are un­der­rep­re­sented in schools. The op­pres­sion of these groups has to be chal­lenged to en­sure eq­uity in phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion classes and the school en­vi­ron­ment as a whole.

As an op­pressed group, stu­dents with ex­cep­tion­al­i­ties en­counter stereo­types that falsely claim lim­i­ta­tions or re­stric­tions in per­form­ing cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties. How­ever, many stu­dents with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties and ex­cep­tion­al­i­ties can suc­cess­fully par­tic­i­pate in phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion classes, with or with­out ac­com­mo­da­tions and sup­ports. Phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers have the op­por­tu­nity to ad­vo­cate for di­ver­sity, chal­lenge stereo­types and change at­ti­tudes in the gym­na­sium and school en­vi­ron­ment.

Phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers have a lot of free­dom to de­ter­mine what lessons to teach and how to im­ple­ment ac­tiv­i­ties. How­ever, con­sid­er­ing stu­dents’ dis­abil­i­ties and ex­cep­tion­al­i­ties is es­sen­tial in im­ple­ment­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that are in­clu­sive. Stu­dents with ex­cep­tion­al­i­ties have the same needs and in­ter­ests as their peers; the dif­fer­ence is that some of these stu­dents need adap­ta­tions and sup­ports. The goal should be for all stu­dents to ben­e­fit from phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in­struc­tion by ex­pe­ri­enc­ing suc­cess and learn­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties that will build the foun­da­tion for life­long phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. All stu­dents can gain from the phys­i­cal, men­tal and so­cial ben­e­fits of be­ing ac­tive.

An in­clu­sive phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram should in­cor­po­rate ac­tiv­i­ties that mea­sure stu­dents’ progress, are non­com­pet­i­tive and are per­son­al­ized (fo­cus­ing on the needs of the stu­dents). In­cor­po­rat­ing var­i­ous types of ac­tiv­i­ties (for ex­am­ple, co-op­er­a­tive learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, non-tra­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties, dance, fit­ness, out­door com­po­nents) helps im­prove stu­dent con­fi­dence and presents op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet var­i­ous stu­dent abil­i­ties.

Phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion classes of­fer an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for team-build­ing ex­er­cises and co-op­er­a­tive learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. In­stead of com­pet­i­tive tra­di­tional sports, stu­dents can fo­cus on co-op­er­a­tive ac­tiv­i­ties that are only suc­cess­ful when ev­ery stu­dent works to­gether. Be­fore the ac­tiv­ity, the teacher should ex­plain to stu­dents that they have to stay with their group and help their group mem­bers reach their goal. Leav­ing a class­mate out is not an op­tion. It is re­ward­ing to see stu­dents’ so­cial in­ter­ac­tions, par­tic­i­pa­tion and be­hav­iour im­prove dur­ing an ac­tiv­ity a stu­dent en­joys and feels in­cluded in.

In a phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion set­ting, ac­tiv­i­ties should be im­ple­mented to en­cour­age stu­dents to work to­gether re­gard­less of dif­fer­ences. Dur­ing ac­tiv­i­ties stu­dents should have op­por­tu­ni­ties to be car­ing and re­spon­si­ble, demon­strate a will­ing­ness to par­tic­i­pate with any­one in class and help other stu­dents when they’re frus­trated. Ac­tiv­i­ties should im­prove stu­dent con­fi­dence and present op­por­tu­ni­ties to mod­ify con­di­tions to meet vary­ing ex­cep­tion­al­i­ties.

For stu­dents with ex­cep­tion­al­i­ties, phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion is valu­able be­cause it pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to build so­cial skills, teaches in­di­vid­u­als how to fo­cus on spe­cific goals and how to over­come ob­sta­cles. It is im­por­tant for phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers to change ex­pec­ta­tions, teach­ing pro­ce­dures and ac­tiv­i­ties to en­sure all stu­dents can be suc­cess­ful in phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and the school en­vi­ron­ment.

Tay­lor Ham­lyn writes from St. John’s

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