Coaching on the Spectrum
By Shawn Bodtmann
Adaptive Physical Education
Adaptive or modified physical education is physical education adapted to suit the needs of any person with a disability. Nationwide there are numerous barriers preventing students appropriate physical education services. At Science Prep Academy, our physical education program uses a blend of adapted state standards and the Special Olympics Unified Sports curriculum to put our students in the best position for their health and success.
Science Prep Academy
Six months ago when I walked into the office of Science Prep Academy, I knew something special was going on. As I sat there across from the Superintendent of Schools, Kenneth Mims, listening to him speak about his passion for education, I had an overwhelming sense of anticipation. I previously worked with children on the spectrum in several roles. From paraprofessional, to direct care supervisor, to volunteering for Special Olympics events, I had my share of experience working with exceptional students. I knew working at this STEM career path school would be a great challenge, but what I did not realize was how much joy these students would bring into my life every day. Each day, our upper and lower schools get a 45-minute block of physical education. In the first six months, we have seen tremendous growth in our student’s overall fitness, and ability to self-regulate. More importantly, our students are happy and willing to engage in a regular exercise program whose benefits are boundless.
Know Your Students
For the first few weeks of school, I got to know many of the students well. This “pairing,” or rapport building period is crucial to gaining trust and establishing instructional control in an academic setting. There were some students however, who were like sparring with a heavyweight prizefighter. There was plenty of jousting and bouts of defiance from students who you could tell had traumatizing experiences in their previous schools. The key to breaking down those defenses, for me, was patience and an aptitude for making others feel comfortable. Once a student has their guard down, my job is rather simple because even if a student dislikes running a mile, or playing basketball, we can have an honest conversation about the expectations of the program, and find a resolution that meets everyone’s needs. The biggest key to success for our school’s physical education program is knowing our student’s likes and dislikes, and being able to adapt our curriculum accordingly.
Stay the Course
At the halfway point of our school-year, the students have a clear path to follow regarding physical education. The students realize the benefits of what we are doing each day, and although they may have up and down days, we continue to encourage them to take pride in themselves and demonstrate responsibility the healthy way. Each student and faculty member is held accountable to this standard of pride, and we will all continue to meet and surpass our personal goals.