SDE: Guidelines for Adapted Physical Education: Legal Mandates

{Guidelines for Adapted Physical Education}

Section 2:

Legal Mandates

Qualifications to Teach Adapted Physical Education

Who teaches adapted physical education?

The adapted physical education teacher (APE) is the person responsible for developing an appropriate physical education plan for individuals with disabilities. The APE teacher is a physical educator with highly specialized training in the assessment and evaluation of motor competency, physical fitness, play, and leisure, recreation and sport skills. The APE teacher has the skills necessary to develop an individualized physical education program and to implement the program.

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 [USCA 1402(25)].

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What qualifications must a physical educator have in order to work as an APE in the state of Connecticut?

If specially designed instruction, such as adapted physical education (APE), is required in a student's individualized education program (IEP), then the services must be provided by a qualified teacher Adapted Physical Educator certification is not required in Connecticut, however A currently certified physical educator is legally qualified to provide adapted physical education for students who require specialized physical education as defined in the IEP.

Connecticut does not license adapted physical education teachers. The Connecticut State Department of Education offers educator certification in physical education. Current requirements are an undergraduate degree in physical education, meeting standards on physical education content area examination, and a completed application for educator certification with endorsement 044 (physical education PK-12). Go to the Connecticut educator certification Web site for more information.

{453} It is largely the initiative of the physical educator and adapted physical educator, and the needs of the school and district, that precipitate the development APE expertise An adapted physical educator must be able to address adapted physical education, must be trained in gathering data through observation of performance, diagnostic tests, curriculum-based instruction, communication with parents and staff, and use of performance and behavioral checklists. The educator should also be knowledgeable in administering and scoring assessments, interpreting scores, and recommending appropriate programming. Knowledge of physical education standards and benchmarks, as well as lifestyle analysis for transition planning, is important.

While the Connecticut State Department of Education does not currently have an adapted physical education endorsement, it acknowledges the existence of and recommends that adapted physical educators be nationally certified through CAPE. CAPE certification, however, is not a licensing requirement.

AAPAR's Adapted Physical Activity Council (APAC) and National Consortium for Physical Education and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities (NCPERID) have developed a joint position statement describing the characteristics of a "Highly Qualified Adapted Physical Education Teacher." The position statement is included as an appendix to this document and can also be accessed on AAHPERD's Web site.

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What responsibilities should an Adapted Physical Education Specialist assume?

The adapted physical educator has an important role in designing an individualized educational plan for students with disabilities so that they can participate to the fullest extent possible in school physical education Typical responsibilities of the Adapted PE specialist include:

  • Providing direct services (hands-on teaching)
  • Completing comprehensive motor assessments of individuals with disabilities and making specific program recommendations (assessment specialist),
  • Consulting with physical education and special education staff who are providing physical education instruction for individuals with disabilities
  • Serving as an IEP (Multi-disciplinary Team or Admission, Review, Dismissal) Committee member who helps develop the IEP in the psychomotor domain
  • Advocating for the student and parent
  • Coordinating the development of curricular materials, intra- and inter-agency collaborations to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities, and
  • Monitoring progress on IEP's (Texas Women's University, Project INSPIRE).

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What skills does an Adapted Physical Educator need?

According to the Web site of Texas Women's University's Project INSPIRE, "the Council for Personnel Preparation for the Handicapped (sic) endorsed the following recommendation for competencies in adapted physical education:

  • Knowledge of motor characteristics, behaviors, and developmental sequences (including birth through age 21) associated with various disabilities in relation to normal motor development;
  • Knowledge of neurological basis of normal and abnormal motor control and sensory motor integration methods for teaching physical education to individuals with severe disabilities, nonambulatory individuals, and individuals with multiple disabilities;
  • Skills in psychomotor assessment and a variety of physical education techniques and procedures for implementing the individual education plan; and
  • Developmental teaching methods/materials and gymnasium organizational abilities in physical and motor fitness, fundamental motor skills and skills in aquatics, dance, individual and group games and sports for individuals with disabilities and/or motor problems."

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What if a school district does not have an adapted physical educator on staff to provide the service determined necessary by the Planning and Placement Team (PPT)?

If the PPT determines that the student requires APE services to meet that student's educational needs and to receive a free and appropriate public education, then the district must find a way to provide the service. Substitution of related services in place of adapted physical education is not an acceptable alternative Providing adapted physical education servicers can be done through a number of methods:

  • Through district support of professional development, generate qualified, in-school or district-wide expertise to meet students' physical education programming needs.
  • Consult with district personnel for an appropriately certified local/private service provider.
  • Secure appropriately certified contracted services from a local provider.
  • With mutual agreement by the school district and the parents, find others who are appropriately certified and have specific training in the area of need.

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Legal Basis for APE

What is the basis for physical education services for students with unique learning needs?

Physical education is explicitly included in the definition of special education, according to the IDEA. This has been the case since the original law, PL 94-142 Children who do not have qualifying conditions for physical education under the IDEA may be entitled to individualized physical education services and programs under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

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Federal Legislation

Federal and state laws govern special education services that are to be provided for students with disabilities in a public school setting and provide some protections for students with disabilities attending private schools.

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act

The original federal law, known as Public Law 94-142 or the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975), set a mandated precedent ensuring that students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education. PL 94-142 further mandated that physical education services, specially designed if necessary, must be made available to every student receiving a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Through the various re-authorizations of PL 94-142, now termed the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, 2004), physical education continues to be an area of curriculum specifically placed within the definition of special education. The IDEA is thus a federal law that governs the provision of special education services for children with disabilities.

The United States Code defines special education as the following: specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including:

  • Instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings
  • Instruction in physical education
  • Physical education is distinctly outlined as an essential area of instruction for students with disabilities, protected under the IDEA.

According to the IDEA a child with a disability means a child with mental retardation, hearing impairment including deafness, speech or language impairment, visual impairment including blindness, serious emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairment, autism, brain injury, learning disability, deafblindness, or multiple disabilities or other health impairments that require special education or related services (OSE/RS, 2006).

The IDEA defines physical education as the development of

  • Physical and motor fitness
  • Fundamental motor skills and patterns
  • Skills in aquatics, dance, and individual and group games and sports (including intramural and lifetime sports)

Physical education includes special physical education, adapted physical education, movement education, and motor development.

The IDEA further specifies:

  • General physical education services, specially designed if necessary, must be made available to every child with a disability receiving a free and appropriate public education.
  • Each child with a disability must be afforded the opportunity to participate in the general physical education program available to non-disabled children unless:
  • The child is enrolled full time in a separate facility; or
  • The child needs specially designed physical education, as prescribed in the individualized education program (IEP).

Additional information is available on the IDEA Web site.

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What if a student has a disabling injury, illness or condition that interferes with learning in physical education, but does not meet the criteria for a learning disability and an Individual Education Program?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. Specifically, it prohibits organizations and employers who receive financial assistance from any federal department or agency from excluding individuals with qualifying disabilities from participating in or having access to programs. It was developed to protect the community of people with disabilities who, due to an impairment or disabling condition, may not otherwise have been able to access programs and services funded (in part or whole) by the federal government. The integrity of this act is upheld through a meaningful evaluation process It was designed to eliminate discrimination against any student with a disability in any program offered by the school district. Public schools receive funding from the federal government; therefore Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to the public school environment.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that:

No otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any other program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

The development of a 504 plan is always in the context of general education. Providing an individualized education program (IEP) is a means of Section 504 compliance. Since the IDEA governs the IEP process, this document does not discuss special education in terms of Section 504. Compliance with the IDEA results in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

In the absence of an IEP, to be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, have a record of such an impairment, or be regarded as having such an impairment.

{453} Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free and appropriate public education to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (34 CFR sec/104.3 [j] [1]). Major life activities include functions such as caring for oneself, walking, writing, learning, breathing, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, speaking, working, and even broader issues such as emotional illness. However, the limitation of a major life activity due to disability must have relevance to the educational environment. The relevance need not be directly related to a limitation in learning, but it must be related to an inability to receive a free and appropriate education due to the impairment.

An evaluation process conducted by the school determines whether a student qualifies for services or accommodations under Section 504. Formal testing is not required. The evaluation process refers to a collection of information from a variety of sources. If a determination is made that a student's disability substantially limits a major life activity and confounds access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), then a 504 plan is developed to document necessary accommodations for that student to access a free and appropriate public education.

The determination of specific services and accommodations under a 504 plan is made at the district level. This determination is made after the evaluation process, which must first determine that the student in question does indeed have an impairment or has been regarded as having an impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities. Typically, weaknesses in performance areas such as motor planning, visual motor integration, sensory processing, etc., do not qualify as impairments that substantially limit a major life activity, resulting in the denial of FAPE. However, exceptions to this general guidance may arise, and these are determined at the district level after an evaluation process.

The relationship between Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) can be confusing. Both laws involve students with disabilities because all students who qualify as "disabled" under the IDEA (Special Education) are considered to also be disabled under Section 504. In other words, Section 504 covers all the disability categories identified by the IDEA. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities in special education in addition to other mental and physical impairments not identified under the IDEA. Some of these disabilities are: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), asthma, diabetes, and a host of other medical conditions. Section 504 disabilities generally are served in regular education programs with accommodations. (Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2012. Frequently Asked Questions About Section 504 and the Education of Children with Disabilities;
and Colorado Department of Education 2007, 6-7. Reprinted and adapted with permission.)

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Similarities and Differences Between Section 504 and the IDEA

What is the difference between the IDEA and Section 504?

The following section describes the elements that the IDEA and Section 504 have in common as well as the differences between them.

Common Elements

Both the IDEA and Section 504 include the following requirements:

  • A free appropriate education must be provided.
  • Students with disabilities must be educated with non-disabled students to the maximum extent possible.
  • Operating guidelines must be developed to identify, locate and serve all disabled students living in the school district.
  • Evaluation and service/accommodation procedures must be established.


Important differences between the IDEA and Section 504 are:

  • The definition of a disability under Section 504 is much broader than the categorical definitions under the IDEA. Section 504, because it is a discrimination law, also protects all special education students.
  • Section 504 is a civil rights law. There is no funding associated with compliance. It is not a program or intervention system. The district must simply "accommodate" for the disability. Special Education, under the IDEA, is partially federally funded. Interventions are specific and compliance is strictly monitored.
  • Section 504 is monitored by the Office for Civil Rights. The IDEA is monitored by the Department of Education.
  • Section 504 covers all activities of the district and includes employees, parents, or anyone coming to school sponsored activities. The IDEA only covers specific students who must meet very clear eligibility requirements.
  • The definitions of "disability" are different.
  • Evaluation to determine eligibility is different for each law. Section 504 does not require as comprehensive an evaluation to determine if there is a disability as must be done under the IDEA.
  • Observations, medical information and professional judgments are considered legitimate sources of evaluation under Section 504. There are no timelines for evaluation under Section 504 as there are under the IDEA. under Section 504 evaluations may be completed "within a reasonable period of time."
  • Section 504 is intended to "level the playing field" usually by eliminating barriers and providing reasonable accommodations. The IDEA requires a program of services with measurable and individual goals which must regularly be documented.
    (Source: Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas, Special Education Department Web page. Reprinted and adapted with permission).

Public schools receive funding from the federal government, therefore Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to the public school environment. (Your Rights Under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, Washington, D.C. 20201)

Additional information is available from the U.S. Department of Education, the Connecticut State Department of Education's Bureau of Special Education, and

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Defining APE Best Practice in Connecticut Schools

How is APE delivered?

Adapted physical education should be available to students with disabilities who are eligible for special education. Direct service APE is provided by a qualified specialist to students who have needs that cannot be adequately addressed in the regular physical education program. In addition to APE, other service delivery options include APE collaboration and APE consultation, specially designed physical education, modified physical education, and general physical education.

Provision of APE is based on the same process of referral, assessment, and individual program planning that other special education services follow. An assessment and evaluation of motor skills performance is considered by the PPT in determining how specialized physical education is to be delivered.

The State must ensure that public agencies in the State comply with the following:
   (a) General. Physical education services, specially designed if necessary, must be made available to every child with a disability receiving a free and appropriate public education, unless the public agency enrolls children without disabilities and does not provide physical education to children without disabilities in the same grades.
   (b) General physical education. Each child with a disability must be afforded the opportunity to participate in the general physical education program available to nondisabled children, unless
      (1) The child is enrolled full time in a separate facility; or 
      (2) The child needs specially designed physical education, as prescribed in the child's IEP.
   (c) Special Physical Education. If specially designed physical education is prescribed in a child's IEP, the public agency responsible for the education of that child must provide the services directly or make arrangements for those services to be provided through other public or private programs.
   (d) Education in separate facilities. The public agency responsible for the education of a child with a disability who is enrolled in a separate facility must ensure that the child receives appropriate physical education services in compliance with this section (U.S. Department of Education, 2004. Sec. 300.108 Physical education).

Federal law guarantees the opportunity for students to participate in physical education regardless of physical, cognitive, or emotional abilities. Finding the least restrictive environment (LRE) for each learner is both a federal mandate and a best practice. The environment is considered to be least restrictive when it matches individual abilities and appropriate services and provides students with as much independence as possible.

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Continuum of Service

The continuum of adapted physical education services should emphasize meaningful student participation in developmentally and age-appropriate curriculum content.

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Adapted Physical Education Service Delivery

There are several configurations commonly utilized for delivery of adapted physical education. The selection of the delivery configuration is determined by the needs of the student and the selection of service delivery method that best meets that student's learning needs as determined by the PPT. The configurations are listed from least restrictive to increasingly restrictive.

General Physical Education Setting
Some students may receive adapted physical education services indirectly through consultation. That is, the adapted physical education teacher consults with the general physical education teacher and/or the paraprofessional frequently to give specific curricular modifications for a student and to monitor student progress in physical education.

In the general physical education setting

  • The general physical education teacher provides instruction.
  • The student participates successfully in the general physical education setting.
  • The student understands basic rules and concepts.
  • The student follows instructional transitions

General Physical Education Setting with a General Physical Education Teacher Making Curricular Accommodations 

In thegeneral physical education setting with a general physical education teacher making curricular accommodations

  • Primary responsibility for instruction resides with the general physical education teacher.
  • The general physical education teacher makes curricular accommodations if needed.
  • The student participates successfully in the general physical education curriculum with modifications made by the physical education teacher.

Modifications and interventions that are attempted for a particular student, and the student's response, should be documented for a specified time before a referral is made for adapted physical education.

APE Teacher Consultation with General Physical Education Teacher (paraprofessionals may be included in this approach)
If it is determined that adapted physical education is the appropriate intervention

  • The Adapted Physical Education teacher consults with the general physical education teacher, assistants and other professionals working with the student.
  • A paraprofessional may be needed to assist the student in the general physical education class.

Consultation may also include: providing staff inservice, communicating with staff and parents, providing resources, modifications and adaptations of the program, including instructional strategies, facilities, and equipment.

The APE teacher works collaboratively with the general physical education teacher within the general physical education classroom. (Paraprofessional is included)
The Adapted Physical Education teacher collaboratively works with the general physical education teacher and assistant and assists the student so that they can successfully participate in the general physical education setting. The Adapted Physical Education Teacher may team teach with the general physical education teacher.

Collaborative Consultation
Collaborative consultation is a process in which the adapted physical education teacher works with other members of the IEP team to plan individualized instruction. Collaborative consultation results in a program that is coordinated with all the services and educational programs and activities in which the student is involved.

Direct APE Instruction provided to a student(s) by an APE Teacher
Some students may have difficulty functioning within the general physical education environment, and they may benefit from receiving adapted physical education instruction in a different educational setting that meets their individualized educational needs according to the IEP and the recommendation of the IEP team It is taught by an APE teacher either independently, with or without paraprofessionals, or in a team teaching situation with either a general physical education teacher or a special education teacher.

  • If the student's identified educational needs require the support from an APE teacher
  • The student participates in general physical education and receives individualized instruction from the Adapted Physical Education Teacher.
  • Instruction may take place in the general physical education setting, small group, individualized setting, or in a combination of settings supported by the Adapted Physical Educator (adapted and reprinted with permission from Colorado Department of Education 2007, 18-22).

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Least Restrictive Environment

By 2012 and beyond, the expectation prevails that schools will provide an inclusive environment that provides for all learners the opportunity to succeed and to thrive.

Adapted physical education is a comprehensive service delivery system put in place to assure that a child with a disability and identified needs has an appropriate physical education program Problems within the psychomotor domain can be addressed by ecologically based assessments, individualized programming, modification of traditional physical education activities and equipment, and by providing instruction in a variety of ways Adapted physical education should not be conceptualized as a placement or setting; rather, it is a composite of beliefs and practices designed to assure high quality physical education for all students These services are delivered in many forms, ranging from general physical education class with few modifications, to physical education class with support, adaptations, specialized equipment and compensatory rules, to physical education class augmented with additional adapted physical education instruction Although this occurs rarely, the needs of some students with disabilities are best met in separate adapted physical education classes, but this last offering should be pursued only after all other options have been explored in an effort to provide quality programming for the student The 'Least Restrictive Environment' section of the IDEA clearly makes this point:

To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including those in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who do not have disabilities; and special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature and severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily (U.S. Department of Education, 2004, Sec. 300.114 LRE Requirements).

Additional information related to the IDEA is available at

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What does LRE mean, and how does this apply to physical education?

Least restrictive environment (LRE) refers to a mandate in the IDEA that students with disabilities should be educated alongside students without disabilities whenever possible. Removal of students from the general physical education setting should only occur when such a placement cannot be achieved satisfactorily, even when the student is provided support (Block, 2000). All services and supports depend on the IEP committee's recommendations about the individual's unique needs, appropriate education, and LRE.

There are a variety of placement options for physical education such as full-time general physical education without any extra support, APE consultant for general physical education, part-time APE (fixed schedule such as every Tuesday and Thursday or alternating schedule which APE intervenes during specific skill development), or full-time APE. For example, a high school student who uses a walker might have difficulty participating in activities that require eye hand coordination such as basketball or hockey; therefore, an APE teacher may provide assistance during these units "fixed schedule." On the other hand, this same student might do well in a wrestling unit where no extra help is needed. Therefore, a flexible schedule, the student would be placed in the general physical education class with an APE specialist providing consultative support for the wrestling unit.

When activities are inappropriate (e.g., unsafe, very competitive, regulation games) the APE specialist can pull the student out of general physical education and work on more appropriate activities. The key issue and concern should be where the students' unique needs could appropriately be achieved while considering the least restrictive environment mandates (adapted and reprinted with permission from

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What are the least restrictive environment (LRE) options in physical education that the Planning and Placement Team should address?

Instruction in the least restrictive environment (LRE) refers to adapting or modifying the physical education curriculum and/or instruction to address the individualized abilities of each student. This means that to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are nondisabled and that the removal of children with disabilities from the general education environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. Adaptations are made to ensure that each student is afforded an opportunity for safe and meaningful participation in the LRE Placement decisions are outlined in the IEP and may include one or more of the following options:

  • The general physical education setting
  • The general physical education setting with a general PE teacher making curricular accommodations
  • APE teacher consultation with general PE teacher (paraprofessional can be included)
  • APE teacher collaboration within the general physical education program (paraprofessional can be included)

Direct APE instruction provided to a student on a one-on-one or small group basis by an APE with support from the paraprofessional as appropriate. (See service delivery models.)

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

The Adapted Physical Educator is a direct service provider, not a related service provider. Physical education is a federally mandated component of special education services. This means that physical education must be provided to the student with a disability as part of that student's special education. This is contrasted with physical therapy and occupational therapy which are related services (adapted and reprinted with permission from Colorado Department of Education 2007, 10).

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Reporting and Documentation

What are the reporting and documentation requirements for IEPs?

The adapted physical educator will report on student progress at the following intervals:

  • Initial IEP assessment
  • Quarterly progress reports
  • Annual IEP review
  • Triennial progress review and comprehensive assessment
  • As appropriate to the program and/or requested by family/administration

The adapted physical educator will document student progress regularly for the following purposes:

  • Monitor progress toward specific skill development.
  • Inform instructional practices.
  • Develop information towards consulting with general PE teachers, other teachers, and related service providers.

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Initial, Annual and Triennial Evaluations

A re-evaluation of each student is conducted if conditions warrant or if the student's parents request and the school agrees to a re-evaluation. At a minimum, students are re-assessed once every three years. For a three-year evaluation, APE teachers must complete an appropriate adapted physical education comprehensive assessment.  The purpose of an evaluation or re-evaluation is to determine whether the child has or continues to have a disability and, if so, to determine educational needs.

According to  IDEA Reauthorized Statute 34 CFR 300.303  and 20 U.S.C. 1414(a)(2):
(A) A reevaluation shall occur
(i) not more frequently than once a year, unless the parent and the local educational agency agree otherwise; and
(ii) at least once every three years, unless the parent and the local educational agency agree  that a reevaluation is unnecessary.
(B) Additional requirements for evaluation and reevaluations (in addition to the previously outlined requirements):
Review of existing evaluation data. 
As part of an initial evaluation (if appropriate) and as part of any reevaluation under this section, the IEP team and other qualified professionals, as appropriate, shall review existing evaluation data on the child, including:
(i) evaluations and information provided by the parents of the child;
(ii) current classroom-based, local, or state assessments and classroom-based obser­vations; and
(iii) observations by teachers and related services providers.
Each district must conduct an individual evaluation of each student's educational needs before the initial provision of special education and related services to a student with a disability. Annual PPT meetings are conducted to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the student, to determine upcoming goals and objectives for the year, and to discuss appropriate educational programming for the upcoming year based upon monitoring data to assess a student's progress toward IEP goals and objectives. For an annual PPT meeting, the APE teachers complete a summary of student performance, provide progress monitoring data, and outline appropriate goals and objectives tied to Connecticut physical education standards and performance indicators for the student (U.S. Department of Education, 2011. Questions and Answers on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Evaluations, and Reevaluations).

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Secondary School Reform in Connecticut and Comprehensive Student Support Systems

What are secondary school reform and student support systems as they apply to adapted physical education?

As part of Secondary School Reform in Connecticut, Comprehensive Student Support Systems are being developed for implementation in all schools throughout the state.  "Designing secondary schools where all students can learn and achieve at high levels requires attention to the needs of the whole child.  Student success drives Connecticut's Plan for Secondary School Reform with the expectation that all students can and will succeed" (Secondary School Reform in Connecticut Comprehensive Student Support Systems).

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Student Success Plans

On July 11, 2011, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Public Act 11-135 which includes a provision requiring each local and regional board of education to implement Student Success Plans (SSP).  Commencing July 1, 2012, schools must create student success plans for each student in Grades 6-12. 

Figure 1. Student Success Plan

The Student Success Plan (SSP) is an individualized student driven plan that will be developed to address every student's needs and interests to help every student stay connected in school and to achieve postsecondary educational and career goals. The SSP will begin in the 6th grade and continue through high school to provide the student support and assistance in setting goals for social, emotional, physical and academic growth, meeting rigorous high school expectations, and exploring postsecondary education and career interests. The Student Success Plan and supporting structures such as student portfolios and academic/personal records should be electronic and portable following the student from school to school and district to district.

Student Success Plan implementation should foster, support, monitor and document:

  • Regular mentor/advisor, student and family interaction
  • Progress in meeting rigorous expectations
  • 21st Century Skills
  • Engagement, academic, career, and social/emotional/physical skills with connection to school/community
  • Goal setting and related activities for:
  • academic growth
  • career exploration and planning
  • personal, social/emotional and physical growth
  • Compilation of student best work samples and other SSP related documents in a portfolio system that includes Capstone Experiences
  • Opportunities for workplace development and demonstration
  • Written student reflection on personal strengths and areas that need improvement
  • Communication between school and parent/guardian, and among school personnel
  • Identification of students who need proactive support and intervention
  • Active, responsible student participation in the plan development and continued evolution.
    (Connecticut State Department of Education, 2011)

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Core Components of Effective Student Success Plans

An effective Student Success Plan is built around three core components:

  • Academic Development
  • Career Development
  • Social, Emotional and Physical Development

(Aligned with The Student Success Plan in Connecticut  and Connecticut Comprehensive School Counseling Program Guide)

The Social, Emotional and Physical Development component is particularly relevant to students who receive adapted physical education services. The Student Success Plan supports positive social, emotional and physical development, allowing students to more fully engage in the school environment and take the risks necessary for optimal academic performance. Student success within may be exemplified through establishing and maintaining positive interpersonal relationships, managing feelings and emotions, engaging in behaviors supportive of positive physical health, demonstrating an appreciation for the needs of others, and embracing opportunities for academic, career, and postsecondary success.

Specific Model Criteria for the SSP:

  • Effective decision-making skills
  • Empathic interactions and community service
  • Utilizing supportive resources
  • Healthy and safe life skills/choices
  • Broadened awareness of self within a global context

These specific model criteria are closely aligned with the development objectives of the Healthy and Balanced Living Curriculum Framework for Physical Education
(Connecticut State Department of Education, 2006)

Figure 2. Aligning Student Success Plans (SSPs) with IEPs, SOPs, Section 504 Plans, and Individualized Healthcare Plans

Students with disabilities have multiple plans to address their specific needs, including Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that contain transition goals and objectives in postsecondary education/training and employment/career as well as independent living skills, if appropriate. Students with disabilities who have IEPs also are required to have a Summary of Performance (SOP) that identifies their academic and functional performance levels when they exit high school, accommodations and services that they have received throughout high school and provides a self-reflection of the student's strengths, needs, and goals.

Students with disabilities who do not receive special education services might have a Section 504 Plan that describes the accommodations and related services necessary to provide them with equal access to educational curricula and activities.  Students with disabilities or medical conditions, regardless of whether they have an IEP or a Section 504 Plan or neither, might also have an Individualized Healthcare Plan (IHP) that addresses specific healthcare needs.

The Student Success Plan cannot replace any of these plans since they are each legal documents that detail specific services, treatment or accommodations to which students with disabilities or medical conditions are entitled. However, all students should have a SSP and for students with disabilities, it would be in addition to one or more of the document previously mentioned. Students with disabilities should be integrated into the SSP process and have access to students with and without disabilities as well as adults in the advising/mentoring component that is used to develop and implement the SSP.

Because of the confidential nature of IEPs, SOPs, and Section 504 and IHC plans, CSDE recommends that the SSP should be attached to these legal documents and can inform their development throughout a student's school career. Specific information from these legal documents that is not confidential or does not imply that a student has a disability or a medical condition could be incorporated directly into the SSP (e.g., postsecondary goals, career interests and preferences, use of technology) for better alignment. However, students and staff must be provided with guidance regarding privacy and confidentiality laws and the public use of confidential information in the SSP that could directly or inadvertently reveal that a student has a disability or medical condition. Nonetheless, the person(s) responsible for the legal documents should be collaborating with the SSP advisor/mentor as well as the student and his/her family to develop and keep the SSP up to date in an appropriate manner. CSDE believes that the wealth of information in the SSP can be a critical element in developing these other documents/plans to support the college and career readiness of students with disabilities.

(Connecticut State Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education, 2-28-12.)

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Transitions through Developmental Stages

What is meant by "Transitions through Developmental Stages?"

"Transition is movement or change without interruption. It should be a smooth flow from one place or situation to another. The process of transitioning children and youths with disabilities, as well as those without disabilities, occurs many times throughout their educational lives. The process begins at home, continues through early childhood education, middle or junior high school, and senior high school education, and culminates in postsecondary education or training. Each time the student moves to a new level or school, transition services should be addressed so he or she can successfully progress from one level to the next in his or her educational journey. Transition services make it easier to travel from one level to another in as smooth a manner as possible. A progression of this nature is needed in order for students with and without disabilities to become productive, independent citizens" (Folsom-Meek, Nearing and Bock, 2007, 38).

Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA, 2004) do not include transition-service guidelines for infants and toddlers and transition services for youths and young adults.  IDEA Part C outlines the obligations of the states' early intervention system (Birth to Three in Connecticut) that would assist the child and family in a smooth and effective transition out of early intervention services to special education and/or other community supports and services. While the transition plan for a student receiving special education services is designed to prepare him or her for life after high school, transition can start before a child enters preschool (Folsom-Meek, Nearing and Bock, 2007).

The transition process should begin when the child and family are first introduced to the school system. In order to build relationships and earn trust, start by providing families with written information and engaging them in a variety of activities. Collaborating and building partnerships among families and early care and education agencies serving the child (e.g., Birth to Three system, Head Start, child care, preschool/school and other special services) is critical (Connecticut State Department of Education, Family-Friendly Services for Preschool Special Education, 13).

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Early Childhood

A preschool-age child is defined as a child aged 3 years or older not yet attending Kindergarten (Connecticut General Statutes, Title 10, Chapter 164, 10-16p). Preschoolers with developmental delays, defined as failure to meet certain developmental milestones, such as sitting, walking, and talking, at the average age often possess concomitant delays impeding their abilities to learn and demonstrate age-appropriate behaviors in activities of daily living. Such delays include (but are not limited to) motor, psycho-social, speech/language, emotional, and cognitive (McGraw-Hill, 2002).

In Using Occupational Therapy Strategies By Adapted Physical Educators And Classroom Teachers For Preschoolers With Developmental Delays, Murata and Maeda (2007) state that, "delays in the motor domain, such as in fundamental motor patterns, can correlate negatively with a preschooler's ability to learn, play, and interact with others and the environment. Fundamental motor patterns provide the infrastructure for learning activities of daily living, games, and sports. Further, a child who does not develop adequate fundamental movements may exhibit lower self-concept and social development. Preschoolers with developmental delays need motor skills acquisition to interact with the environment and to learn and perform daily living skills

{453} In the same article, Murata and Maeda describe the motor domain as, "a major component of many preschool programs in special education and is an integral part of a preschooler's developmental growth." Language in Public Law 108446 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) further supports the inclusion of a motor coordination and development program.  Motor programs for children ages 3-5 in the form of a semi-structured physical activity or movement program are mandatory per the IDEA. The importance of providing developmentally-appropriate physical activity is highlighted to an even greater degree when consideration is given to preschoolers with developmental delays. Preschoolers should be provided with a movement program that has exploration and guided discovery as its foundation, with spiraling learning concepts facilitated by teacher interaction when needed in order to address delays in motor patterns. Collaboration with related services, if needed, should be integrated within a movement program (Murata and Madea, 2007).

A collaborative approach is especially beneficial when preschool classroom teachers are responsible for implementing a developmentally-appropriate motor program.  Classroom teachers are typically not movement specialists in schools, and general educators including preschool teachers often have insufficient knowledge and skills related to motor development or in teaching to the psychomotor domain.  It is logical for preschool classroom teachers to seek assistance from various resources with whom to collaborate, such physical educators, adapted physical educators and related services personnel such as physical therapists and occupational therapists.  (Murata and Maeda 2007).

Early childhood special education as defined by the federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is for 3- , 4- and 5-year-old children with disabilities who require special education.  In Connecticut, special education and related services are available to eligible children by age 3 and are provided by local and regional school districts.

Information and resources related to Early Childhood Special Education can be found on the corresponding section of the Connecticut State Department of Education's Web site. Additional Connecticut State Department of Education resources include Ready By 5 & Fine By 9 / Connecticut's Early Childhood Investment Framework 5-9 (2006); Connecticut Preschool Framework, 2006; Connecticut Preschool Assessment Framework, 2008.  

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Transition to Elementary and Secondary Grades

Regardless of abilities or disabilities, a healthy body allows one to function better in all aspects of life, and it is that concept that suggests that the adapted physical education (APE) specialist can contribute to all components of transition services, and not just to the recreation and leisure component of community participation.  While providing for a coordinated transition from one stage of a student's education to another is highly recommended, it is not required in the Code of Federal Regulations.  Technically and legally, transition services are required to assist students in moving to adult life (see Transition to Adult Life below).

Additional members are needed for transition planning along with the regular PPT members. The amendments to the IDEA (2004) mandate that PPT members include the student, parents or family, special education teacher(s) (including the APE specialist), and general education teacher(s). Representatives of community agencies are not required by the IDEA at the elementary level, but should be considered integral members of IEP transition teams because this is the group of professionals who provide post-school opportunities and support and with whom the student must learn to relate and cooperate during adult life. Seaman, DePauw, Morton, and Omoto, (2003) assert that although students may or may not have previously been part of their PPT, they are important contributors to their transition planning and  according to IDEA 2004, must be invited to any PPT where transition planning is being discussed. Student preferences and interests form the foundation of transition planning. Student and family interests and input in the decision-making process adds value and meaning to the transition planning done by the rest of the PPT. Consequently, cooperation and collaboration between and among all team members is essential for the success of the youth or young adult (Folsom-Meek, Nearing and Bock, 2007).

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 recognized the importance of early planning for post-school life (IDEA 1997; PL 105-17, 20 U.S.C. sec.1400 ). The 2004 amendments require that by the student's 16th birthday, transition services must be provided by the local education agency. Transition services are defined as a coordinated set of activities designed within an outcome-oriented process that promotes movement from school to post-school activities including community participation. Community participation is the area within transition services in which the general or adapted physical educator can address programming needs in physical activity (Sayers, Shapiro and Webster, 2003).

Although IDEA 1997 does not require the local education agency to consider transition activities and sites for students with disabilities before the student's 16th birthday, it does suggest that services could be provided earlier if the PPT feels this is appropriate. Therefore, one should consider the student's abilities, interests, and opportunities for community-based sport and recreation participation while the student is in elementary school. Doing so should help the student to become physically active during his or her elementary and middle school years and to develop skills and interests for maintaining that activity later in life (Sayers, Shapiro and Webster, 2003; deFur, 2000).

"Research indicates that sport and recreation participation improves and enhances self-concept, competence, and social skills of individuals with disabilities (Martin and Mushett, 1996,75; Ravesloot, Seekins, and Young, 1998, 81). Yet, individuals with disabilities have been found to engage in fewer recreation activity programs and sports than their peers without disabilities (Hodge and Dattilo, 1995, in Sayers et al., 2003). For example, during leisure time, individuals with intellectual disability report spending their time watching television, listening to the radio, and talking on the phone (Hodge and Dattilo, 1995 in Sayers et al., 2003.) The lack of involvement in sport and recreation activities during leisure time may be largely attributed to the lack of exposure to selected activities throughout the school years (Hodge and Dattilo, 1995 in Sayers et al., 2003) and no doubt contributes significantly to the pattern of overweight, obesity and obesity-related conditions and diseases prevalent in disabled populations (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007).  Such findings highlight the need to teach individuals with disabilities functional community-based lifetime sports and recreation skills at as early an age as possible. Early teaching can enable students with disabilities to acquire the skills necessary to successfully transition into a variety of community sport and recreation programs as adults" (Sayers, Shapiro and Webster, 2003).

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Transition to Adult Life

It is the APE teacher's responsibility to recognize and teach students with disabilities how to overcome the barriers for transition into adult community life or post-secondary school opportunities. In order to achieve this APE teachers need to concentrate on activities in the community that promote a physically active lifestyle while enhancing the health and wellness of students with disabilities. Upon graduation, students with disabilities should know how to plan their activity, perform their activity and become personally responsible for participating in recreational activities on a regular basis. Benefits are not limited to recreation and fitness for employment, however.  In addition to a healthy lifestyle, health-related physical fitness, motor competence and mobility, and overall wellness will contribute to the student's post-secondary goals in education and employment as well as independent living and community participation.

 According to the Code of Federal Regulations 300.43(a) (IDEA, 2004), the term "transition services" means a coordinated set of activities for an individual with a disability that:
(1) Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of a child with a disability to facilitate the child's movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.
(2) Is based upon the individual child's needs, taking into account the child's strengths, preferences, and interests.
(3) Includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult-living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation (U.S. Department of Education 2007, IDEA Regulations: Secondary Transition; U.S. Department of Education 2006, Individualized Education Program [IEP]; and U.S. Department of Education 2006, Topical Brief: Changes in Initial Evaluation and Reevaluation).

For students receiving transition services or who are of transition age, physical education program planning shifts away from a school setting toward community or postsecondary education settings. Goals and objectives for physical education fall primarily within the areas of recreation/leisure and physical fitness skills necessary to support vocational, health, and daily living activities and community participation. At this level, the goals and objectives in adapted physical education should emphasize the student's interests and preferences as related to physical fitness and participation in recreation and leisure activities.

The adapted physical educator's role in supporting transition services is to facilitate the student's use of community recreation and fitness resources. To achieve this, the adapted physical educator might conduct classes in the community, but will often collaborate with the transition specialist or special education teacher in conducting physical education instruction in these settings. This will usually result in less frequent direct instruction by the adapted physical educator, with increased consultation of the adapted physical educator with the transition coordinator, special education teacher, or community recreation leader.

Adapted physical education services for students receiving transition services or who are of transition age are likely to differ from those on IEPs of younger students in several ways:

  • Activities are more frequently conducted in community or postsecondary settings.
  • Goals and objectives are closely related to student interests and preferences rather than to Connecticut PE standards.
  • Activities are part of a coordinated set of activities that promotes movement from school to post-school living.
  • Less direct instruction from the adapted physical educator and more collaborative consultation.
  • Emphasis is on assisting students to achieve their post-school goals.

Schools prepare students to be productive, contributing adults in their community. Students with disabilities need instruction to occur in many places, including home, school, and community settings. For students receiving transition services, physical education program planning and curriculum options incorporate community or postsecondary settings. Recreation and leisure become the objectives for physical education in an effort to support vocational, health, or daily living activities and life-long community participation. These objectives should be aligned with the individual student's interests, preferences and postsecondary goals.  For example, staying healthy and being physically fit are critical for obtaining full-time competitive employment, or for dealing with the stress of being a college student, or meeting the challenges of a demanding work environment and being a responsible citizen.

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Termination of Services

The following criteria should be considered for termination of APE services and can be determined at an IEP review meeting with PPT agreement:

  • Student has met all APE objectives on his/her IEP.
  • Student is performing successfully in the general PE curriculum with minimal adaptations by the general PE teacher.
  • Student has met graduation requirements for PE and does not intend to take further PE classes. 
  • Student has physician waiver/exemption from PE.
  • Student is able to receive reasonable benefit from general physical education alone.
  • Student is functioning within typical range of motor skills.
  • Student is able to adapt and modify his/her own activity with the general educator's assistance.

Student is able to participate in recreation and leisure programs in transition programs.


Content Last Modified on 3/2/2016 10:05:51 AM