This year for the first time, I am responsible for teaching Physical Education to my ASD class and it has quickly become a meaningful integration/inclusion opportunity for my students. My colleague ad P.E. guru @andreahaefele and I observed a gap in the knowledge and education of Phys.Ed teachers required to properly teach special needs students. To combat this, we have been working on DISABLE the LABEL: An awareness campaign designed to equip teachers with the skills necessary to create and implement a Phys. Ed program that promotes inclusivity and community for ALL.
Why Integrate for P.E.?
Autism is a cognitive disability that is characterized by deficiency in social skills, memory, processing, expressive and receptive skills. Therefore, my students lack a lot of the basic self-regulation, attention and cognitive skills necessary to integrate into age-appropriate classrooms for Literacy, Math and Social Studies. Their bodies, however, are a tool that allows them to perform movement and actions that are actually at grade-level. Movement is a strength for my students, so why not integrate them into a subject where they have a potential to keep up with their peers?
My Physical Education program is a combination and balance of 3 parts:
1. Reverse Integration
Who: ASD Students + 1-2 peers from Integration class
What: ASD students work on their IPP (Individualized PhysEd Plan) 1:1 with a teacher while buddies engage in parallel and partner activities with the other ASD students.
Purpose: To improve gross motor skills individually and directly teach skills that will help the students to be successful with a larger integration group (i.e. run, jump, play tag, sit when the whistle blows)
Who: ASD Students + Integration Class
What: Students participate in the daily routines of a mainstream PhysEd class, using the skills they learn through the IPP.
Purpose: To allow ASD students to improve their social skills through gross motor activities that require working with a buddy or group of classmates (i.e. playing tag).
3. Inclusion (the BIG picture!)
Who: Integration Class (and the rest of the school community!)
What: Direct teaching of inclusive strategies for students to act as a successful buddy to a special needs peer.
Purpose: To create a safe, welcoming environment for ALL students to learn.