Teaching Hope for Children With Disabilities

Physical activity is now a keyword in the world today. People are beginning to realize the benefits of participating in physical activity regularly. With childhood obesity on the rise with rates more than tripling in the past 30 years. (1) It's no wonder children are being encouraged to get outside and off the couch; although there is one group of children that aren't getting as big of a push, I am referring to the children with disabilities. Children with disabilities need the same physical activity as other children their age, and it can be difficult to find a place where they can get active.

Do not get me wrong there are programs for them such as Special Olympics and other activities that children with disabilities can get involved in, but some parents feel their sons or daughters aren't prepared for activities. Coming up through public schools I have seen the special education students in the physical education classrooms. Majority of teachers will try to get them involved in any way that they can, but it can be difficult because they aren't the only children in the class. It is hard to give them the one on one time that they need to learn the skill when you are supposed to be watching the entire class. The gym can also be an overwhelming place for children with disabilities with all the loud noises and people.

One way to combat this is to have peer educators or para-educators to help out the physical education teachers. (2) By having the support the teacher needs the child will be able to get the one on one attention that they need in order to be successful in learning the skills being taught. A peer educator can be any other student that has a study hall during the class period where the child with disabilities is in physical education. The physical education teacher can have a selection process, similar to that of the peer leadership selection that many schools are incorporating today. After the selections are made, peer educators will have to be trained by the physical education teacher before working with students. Training should include how to communicate with the child, how to be encouraging, and how to work with the child. Once training is complete they will be allowed to enter the classroom to help the child with disabilities to be able to learn skills. By involving children without disabilities the teacher will be opening the door for success. The child with disabilities will be happy and excited that they now have a partner and that they are playing with children without disabilities. The child without disabilities will gain a deeper understanding and compassion for the child with disabilities. It is a forever giving circle that will make all participants happy.

A para-educator is also known as classroom aids. Many classroom aids are available to help during physical education classes, but they don't know how. The job of the physical educator is to get them involved. Ask them to please be prepared with sneakers on the day of physical education. The physical educator must also help them to understand that they are needed. Once they feel that they are needed and that they will be appreciated they will do their best to help the physical educator. If the teacher feels as though they aren't doing their best that is why the peer educators will be there. With the peer educators there the teacher can still be teaching while the students would be getting the one on one education that they need.

Many people don't realize what a difference one on one education can do for these students. I have recently been working with a child who has autism. He rarely participated in his physical education class because he was overwhelmed and not confident in himself. I began to work with him outside of school, just teaching him different sport skills and activities that he can participate in. I am happy to announce that he is now participating more in his physical education class, and is running around the house after school instead of just sitting on the couch and watching the television. Just because they have a disability doesn't mean that they don't need the same amount of physical activity as other children. I have realized that on days where the child has a bad day at school after the session of playing his mood is completely different. It will go from mad/upset to relaxed and happy. I have seen the child gain a sense of pride after performing tasks that he thought were impossible because he had tried and failed so many times. The child has gained more confidence that he can now participate in his physical education class with other students. This is what physical activity and teaching skills to children with disabilities can do for them.

Every parent wants the best for their child. Every parent wants their child to feel confident and happy. Physical activity can do that for children with disabilities. It is so important to give them a chance to feel like the other children and to be successful. Giving them one on one education to teach them sports skills and ways to be active is just one way that it can be done. By giving children with disabilities these chances to be successful in activities that can be performed for the rest of their life, you are giving them hope. The reason I say this is because they will be more confident and able to try new things and get involved with more activities which gives them more chances for success.

1. http://www.simplefit.net/static_pages/Autistic-Children/
2. Dr. Dan Chandler, Professor at The College of New Jersey


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  2. Read more information on how to teach children with disabilities. With the proper approaches implemented, they will be more confident and able to try new things and get involved with more activities

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