Planning For Independence

 Physical Education


The physical education program is an important part of the total school program and contributes to students' social emotional, and intellectual, as well as physical, development. It provides students with knowledge, skills, and positive attitudes and behaviours that will contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Students need to be provided with opportunities to interact socially through the medium of physical activity. They can use movement as a means of communication and as a medium in which to express themselves creatively. Physical play promotes the development of motor skills, provides students with a measure of autonomy, allows them to grow socially, provides them with language practice, and stimulates imaginative and creative impulses.

Students should have opportunities to participate in a wide range of physical and recreational activities that promote fitness, fun, success, and interaction with others. Through these experiences they will:

  • develop positive attitudes towards personal hygiene, safety, nutrition, and active lifestyles;
  • grow physically, intellectually, and emotionally;
  • acquire the ability to participate in integrated learning environments;
  • acquire the ability to take advantage of recreational opportunities offered in and by the community;
  • develop a variety of recreational and athletic abilities that will help them use their leisure time productively.

The Planning Cycle

Assessment and Development

In the first two phases of the planning cycle, educators need to:

  • identify specific physical and recreational needs and abilities through the assessment process;
  • identify the need for specialized or adapted programming;
  • develop a variety of age-appropriate learning environments and opportunities both inside and outside the school;
  • set attainable goals for students, based on individual capabilities.

Implementation and Evaluation

In the last two phases of the planning cycle, educators need to:

  • develop activities that maintain a high level of physical fitness;
  • promote creative self-expression through such means as dance, games, and team activities;
  • develop desirable social skills and attitudes in integrated settings;
  • use a variety of modes of instruction, such as tutoring, modelling, mentoring, and team teaching;
  • encourage general enjoyment of physical activities, placing special emphasis on skill development in selected leisure activities, such as golf, tennis, curling, volleyball, badminton, bowling, swimming, and crosscountry skiing;
  • provide students with appropriate opportunities to learn and apply specific skills with non-disabled peers;
  • increase students' responsibility for making decisions and accepting the consequences of them and for building rewarding relationships with adults and peers;
  • enhance students' psychomotor development by encouraging them to participate regularly in a balanced program of activities designed to help them overcome their awkwardness and lack of balance;
  • adapt the physical and recreational program so that it can be provided in an integrated setting;
  • use constructively such evaluation tools as checklists, task analysis outlines, staff observations, individual program plans, and anecdotal reports.


Irmer, Larry D., et al, Physical Education Opportunity Program for Exceptional Learners (PEOPEL): An Administrative Guide for Secondary Schools. 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: National Diffusion Network, 1979. Available from the Ontario Association for Community Living and the Niagara South Board of Education.

Case Study - Elementary Level

Student Profile Ray is a thirteen-year-old student who has multiple disabilities. He is non-verbal and nonambulatory (paraplegic). He can communicate by means of a picture board and is very aware of people and events around him. He cannot yet operate his electric wheelchair independently.

Learning Environment Ray has been placed in a special school in the local community.

Expected Learning Outcomes Ray is expected to:

  • increase his daily use of his expressive communication system (picture board);
  • practise manipulating his electric wheelchair;
  • enjoy physical activities that promote the profitable use of leisure time.

Student Program Ray is being provided with opportunities to:

  • participate in group activities in order to develop feelings of self-worth and success;
  • incorporate his physiotherapy exercises into the daily fitness program (with the aid of the physiotherapist);
  • participate in an aquatics program in order to improve his gross-motor skills;
  • develop wheelchair mobility, using lines on the gym floor, obstacle courses, and dance activities;
  • develop a set of symbols for his picture board that relate specifically to activities in the physical education class;
  • learn the rules and adapted skills required to play leisure games (e.g., lawn darts, shuffleboard, bowling).

Case Study - Secondary Level

Student Profile Nineteen-year-old Paul suffered neurological damage in a car accident when he was fourteen. He has a moderate disability and good language skills. He exhibits aggressive and inappropriate behaviours with his peers and has difficulty with many fine- and gross-motor activities. He has the potential to live independently in the community.

Learning Environment Paul has been placed in a special education class in a secondary school and has access to a variety of peer tutoring programs, including physical education.

Expected Learning Outcomes Paul is expected to:

  • participate in a variety of recreational and fitness activities through an adapted physical education program;
  • become acquainted with recreational opportunities offered in and by the community both during and after school hours;
  • develop age-appropriate behaviours and skills through the example of peer-tutor role models.

Student Program Paul is being provided with opportunities to:

  • develop appropriate behaviours for group situations through one-to-one peer tutoring;
  • work with staff and his peer tutor in a behaviour management program to learn to control his aggressive behaviour;
  • develop fundamental motor skills (throwing, striking, catching, kicking) without fear of injury (e.g., through the use of nerf balls);
  • participate in class, intramural, and community (e.g., YMCA, local health/recreation club) activities;
  • learn ways to express his frustrations without using profane language;
  • develop adapted recreational skills as outlined in the PEOPEL program (see "Resource" above)

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