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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Teaching Adapted Physical Education for Autistic Children

Adapted Physical Education (APE) addresses the special needs of children with Autism and Autistic Spectrum Disorders in a classroom. These classes use methods that facilitate learning for Autistic children and use common repetitive behaviors (hand flapping, spinning, and bouncing) by incorporating them into the classroom.

A successful Adapted Physical Education class requires many vital parts.


First, the program needs an initial evaluation that asks targeted questions. These questions should lead to a better understanding of the autistic student’s unique needs.

Some typical questions:

Does your child display any repetitive behavior? – Autistic children may display rocking, hand flapping, spinning, or scripting.

Is your child tactile sensitive? – Some autistic children abhorred being touched and can cause a meltdown.

Does your child experience seizures? Does your child take any Medication? Autistic children are prone to seizures and medication can effect their reactions and emotions.

Visual Rules and Instructions

By nature, autistic children are visual learners. Visual rules and instructions develop clear and concrete expectations. Favor the use of visual instructions and limit verbal instructions to quick statements phrased in short sentences.

Some ideas for implementing visual rules and instructions

1. Post the classroom rules – Create a few classroom rules and clearly display them in the classroom.

2. Assign each student to a place – Assign a place in the room for each student to stand and mark it with a visible spot. Use this spot as the student’s home base for all activities.

3. Create visual class schedules and class formats – Autistic children need consistency. Schedules and class formats helps to provide this consistency and reduce surprises.

4. Use flash cards – Flash cards are great visual tools for Autistic Children to follow. They will relate the activity with the flash card very quickly.

5. Demonstrate proper performance – Demonstrate the proper performance of a technique. You can use a follow the leader style of teaching, which works great for visual learners.

Providing simple visual instructions will aid in a smooth running class.

Additional Tips for an Adapt Physical Education Program

* Use sameness in structure – this means performing things consistently in the same manner. For example, you perform the warm-up with exactly the same exercises and the same number of repetitions in every class.

* Remove extra distractions from the classroom that will overload the student’s senses.

* Create predictable transitions from one activity to another.

* Choose safe activities because autistic children may be insensitive to danger.

* Be conscious of the length of time for each activities since many children, due to limited attention span, will need frequent changes.

* Incorporate repetitive behaviors into a class – in martial arts classes for autistic children, we add the hand flapping in the warm-up, bouncing in guard stance, and spinning kicks.

Physical education programs are terrific outlet for autistic children to vent energy and redirect behaviors into a more positive direction. As our knowledge grows on the subject of teaching autistic children, better teaching methods will continue to develop for autistic children. Adapted physical education fills an important gap in the education of these special children.


XPHYSGUY said...


Sounds like you enjoy working with ASD students who are higher functioning and older individuals. Your hints for dealing with ASD are helpful and I already include all of them with my 75+ elementary students. I'm not complaining about your blog, but was just wondering if you ever dealt with younger ASD students or if you have any suggestions on how to work with this population of students (transitions, activities, etc)?

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