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Coaching Players With Disabilities, Part II

December 31, 2003 09:00 PM

I. Common Disabilities (Defined and Described) 

Mental Retardation:

Definition: The American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR, 1992) defines a person as mentally retarded when the following three criteria are met: cognitive level (IQ below 70-75), significant limitations exist in two or more adaptive skill areas; and the condition is present from childhood (age 18 or less).


    • Cognitive learning - area where students differ most
    • Learn at slower rate
    • Achieve less academically


    • Exhibit same range but more frequently exhibit inappropriate responses to social/emotional situations.
    • Do not fully comprehend what is expected of them in social situations


    • Delayed development of physical skills
    • Usually overweight because of less activity levels

Teaching Strategies for individuals with mild retardation:

    • Put individual in less demanding sport position
    • Overteach the cognitive information
    • Emphasize fitness activities

Teaching Strategies for individuals with severe retardation:

    • Emphasize range of motion exercises
    • Have individual propel himself as much as possible
    • Concentrate on postural righting activities
    • Use resistance training with therabands
    • Concentrate on vestibular activities

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Definition: A condition that describes students who display hyperactive behaviors, have difficulty attending to the task at hand, and tend to be impulsive.


    • Inattention, poor listening skills, and restlessness
    • Impulsive
    • Hyperactivity
    • Onset before age 7
    • Inappropriate excessive motor activity

Teaching Strategies:

    • Highly structured environment
    • Reduce teaching space
    • Control extraneous stimuli
    • Larger number of activities, shorter time on each
    • Positive behavior modification program
    • Use brief instructions


Definition: Classic autism is defined as a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3.


    • Impairment in social interaction
    • Impairment of verbal and nonverbal communication
    • Restricted, repetitive, and stereotypical patterns of behavior, interests, and activities
    • Impaired imitation
    • Lack of awareness of the existence of feelings of others
    • Absence of imaginative activity

Teaching Strategies:

    • Use a consistent behavior modification program
    • Teach in a less stimulating area
    • Use an established routine with repetitive transition strategies
    • Use a predictable routine
    • Be consistent in use of terms, equipment, and class organization
    • Use vigorous aerobic exercise to reduce self-stimulating behavior

Behavior Disorders:

Definition: A condition of disruptive or inappropriate behaviors that interferes with a student's learning, relationships with others, or personal satisfaction to such a degree that intervention is required.


    • Poor coordination
    • Refusal to practice
    • Loss of emotional control
    • Hostility
    • Noncooperative Behavior
    • Disorientation in space and time
    • Destructive

Teaching Strategies:

    • Remove distracting objects
    • Impose limits on use of equipment and facilities
    • Use games of social interaction
    • Expect aggressiveness and monitor it closely
    • Use activities that provide immediate feedback



Cerebral Palsy:

Definition: A disorder of movement and posture caused by a defect in the developing brain.


    • Primitive reflexes are still evident
    • Slow to develop postural reflexes
    • May have the following:
    • Mental retardation
    • Convulsions
    • Speech problems
    • Oculomotor defects
    • Hearing and vision loss

Teaching Strategies:

    • Work on muscle stretching
    • Develop range of motion
    • Develop postural alignments
    • Use ramp climbing
    • Work on gait training

Visual Impairment:

Definition: An overall term that includes all levels of vision loss, from partially sighted to complete blindness.


    • Physical fitness is below those of sighted peers
    • Balance development is impaired
    • Fundamental motor patterns and skills are delayed
    • Physical growth and maturation may be impaired
    • Wide variation in residual vision

Teaching Strategies:

    • Use other sensory modalities for providing information
    • Use games for social development
    • Use a beeper, constant sound source, etc.
    • Place students where they can best hear instructions
    • Use contrasts between figure and background
    • Increase or decrease the grade to indicate play boundaries
    • Begin new game in slower motion

Hearing Impairments:

Definition: An overall term that includes all levels of hearing loss, both deaf and hard of hearing.


    • Balance may be affected
    • Information processing time is longer
    • Physical fitness may be lower
    • May be a delay in social/emotional development
    • Speech can range from intelligible to none

Teaching Strategies:

    • Make sure the student can see your lips when you talk
    • Use visual demonstrations
    • Coordinate your communication method with the rest of the IEP team
    • Learn basic signs and use them
    • Use captioned videotapes
    • Stand still when giving instructions

Learning Disabilities

Definition: A disability in which the individual possesses average intelligence but is substantially delayed in academic achievement.


  • Poor spatial orientation
  • Clumsiness
  • Figure-background problems
  • Rhythmic problems
  • Problems with body awareness
  • Difficulty with motor proficiency

Teaching Strategies:

  • Work on body/space problems with action songs, games, mirrors, and tactile activities
  • Work on balance and upper/lower body coordination for motor proficiency
  • Work on obstacle courses for spatial orientation
  • Use brightly colored objects for contrast
  • Give opportunity for rhythmical problems

II. What is Adapted Physical Education?


Change the word "adapted" to "modified" and you have the idea of Adapted Physical Education. It is GOOD teaching which adapts (modifies) the curriculum, task, and/or environment so that ALL students can fully participate in physical education.

Federal law (PL 94-142, PL 101-476, PL 105-17) mandates that physical education be provided to students with disabilities and defines physical education as the development of:

  • physical and motor skills,
  • fundamental motor skills and patterns (throwing, catching, walking, running, etc). and
  • skills in aquatics, dance, and individual and group games and sports (including intramural and lifetime sports).

For all practical purposes, Adapted Physical Education IS developmentally appropriate physical education at its finest. It is adapting, modifying, and/or changing a physical activity so it is as appropriate for the person with a disability as it is for a person without a disability.

The APE teacher is a direct service provider, not a related service provider, because special physical education is a federally mandated component of special education services [U.S.C.A. 1402(25)]. 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. These therapies are provided to the child with disabilities only if he needs them to benefit from instruction.

III. Adapted Equipment Resources


Flaghouse Special Populations

Flaghouse's equipment catalog features a variety of items for teachers and therapists of students with disabilities. The selection includes gross motor equipment, riding equipment, aquatics, switches, and sensory stimulation items.

Flaghouse, Inc. (800) 793-7900
601 Flaghouse Drive
Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07604-3116

Ablenet 414-691-3476

17700 West Capitol Dr.
Bldg. 31
Brookfield, Wi 53045

Communication Aids for Children and Adults 414-352-5678

6625 N. Sidney Place
Milwaukee, Wi 53209

Rifton Equipment 800-777-4244

PO Box 901
Rifton, NY 12471

Sportime Catalogs (Abilitations and Chime Time) 800-477-5075

One Sportime Way
Atlanta, Ga 30340

Pedal Pal 1-888-PEDAL PAL

140 Plastics Rd.
PO Box 321
Corry, Pa  16407




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