Every day during 5th period, Ms. Madden holds her adaptive gym class for Special Education students.
How many high school students genuinely enjoy going to PE? Ms. Madden’s Adaptive PE students do. Douglas Luncfor said, “I guess I just like the activities that we do, it’s really fun.” Mariah Cather added, “It’s really fun and my friends [are here].” Jackie Camrena agreed and said, “It’s, like, fun and really exciting and it’s awesome.”
Ms. Madden seems to enjoy it just as much as her students. She enjoys the enthusiasm and willingness the students have. She said, “They really work well together: you can partner them up with anyone and they’ll try new things.”
This class is unique when compared to PE classes taken by students without disabilities. For instance, the class focuses more on the development of skills and not games or sports. According to Ms. Madden, “For some of them, the concept of games and being on different teams–offense and defense–is very difficult, but they enjoy competing one on one. We do a lot of keep-away skills or we do a lot of passing…rather than this is your team playing against this team, it’s more what can you do vs. someone else? And how can your ability levels match and how are they different?”
The class size is significantly smaller than an average PE class, and students in the class create a long range of ability levels. Ms. Madden said that this promotes a much more individualized curriculum. She said that this also helps her to get to know the students and aides more. Ms. Madden said that the aides also help particularly in the individual care.
The aides help the students who are in wheelchairs hone their fine motor skills. Ms. Madden said, “The aides that come in with them are great, they’re awesome. They probably work harder than I do everyday.” Though they have the most guidance for their individual student, Ms. Madden gives them basic goals for each day. One aide, Ms. Hunter, said, “It [adaptive PE] allows our students, who may have physical limitations, show us just what they are capable of doing. It’s mind blowing.” Another aide, Mrs. Clarke, said that what she enjoys most about Adaptive PE is “making them [the students] laugh at all times.”
The Adaptive PE class also differs from others because of how it is an everyday class and they do mostly elementary school games. “The kind of ones [games] that we do for sophomore’s warm ups,” Ms. Madden said. However, the class is also participating in the national program Achilles Kids that measures a class’s progress or distance that they have travelled in class. Ms. Madden particularly appreciates how the program includes students who are in wheelchairs. “So you can either walk, jog, or roll,” Ms. Madden said. “And a lot of the time, I feel like some of the kids that are in wheelchairs get left out of programs like that because their milage doesn’t count because they’re not walking. But to them, rolling is walking.” Every month, Ms. Madden will send in her students’ progress and they will earn certificates and even a medal when they complete a half marathon. They are also going to receive a map of Winchester, Virginia, so that the class can track their progress visually through town. Ms. Madden laughed and said, “It wasn’t my idea at all, I stole it from another teacher.”
More information on Achilles Kids can be found at http://www.achillesinternational.org/achilles-kids/