Author: Phillip Conatser

How to Fine-Tune an Adapted Aquatics Program

In this article, I share the results of an assessment study designed to provide an adapted aquatics and rehabilitation class, feedback on successful areas of instruction and areas that may need improvement. Although several adapted aquatic swimming assessments exist (e.g. Special Olympics, DePaepe Checklist, Sherrill Model) only the Conatser Adapted Aquatics Swimming Screening Test is norm-based and allows statistical analysis.

This assessment has 44 total test items consisting of (a) psychological/physical adjustment skills, (b) entering and exiting the pool skills, (c) acceptance towards passive range of motion, (d) breath control and respiratory skills, (e) balance and flotation skills, and (f) swimming movement skills through the water. Pre- and post-aquatics skills of children with disabilities were assessed by trained university students. These students also conducted the instructional intervention.

A screening test was used to establish a baseline of essential swimming skills to be taught in the adapted aquatics programs. Before testing and instruction, the university students were trained for one week on how to conduct the assessment and learned techniques for teaching swimming to children with disabilities.   Children with disabilities received instruction for 3 weeks, Monday through Friday, with each session lasting 1 hour. Pretest assessment guided instruction and the acquisition of new skills.  Instructors used a variety of motivating  incentives (e.g. equipment, encouragement, musical, games etc.) to improve swimming performance. An emphasis of instruction for children with disabilities was to ensure they learned how to be safe in and around the water environment.

Activities for Improving Balance

Balance is often an overlooked skill to practice unless teaching or coaching gymnastics, the very young, or students who have disabilities that effect mobility.  But maintaining and improving balance is essential for all students and should be a regular part of any PE, Adapted PE, or sports program.  Adding a few balance skills during warmup takes little time and benefits other activities.  For students with balance deficits, more time, emphasis, and practice can be allocated to improve balance. Some of these suggested activities and techniques will not only help improve balance but also athletic performance.

Balance Defined and Explained

Balance can be defined as an even distribution of weight that enables someone or something to remain upright while remaining stable and achieving equilibrium.  In general, there are three main elements that help in achieving balance:

Skill and Fitness Assessment Ideas for Students with Disabilities

Assessing the skills and physical fitness of students with disabilities can be challenging. Most physical educators are used to assessing general non-disabled students, but many don’t have the know-how and experience of testing and planning activities for students with disabilities (especially students with severe/multiple disability). Assessment is vital for skill and fitness prescription and for students with disabilities individualized assessment is critical. The following information gives physical educators who teach students with disabilities many practical suggestions for appropriate motor skills testing and fitness programming .

General Guidelines for Successful Skill and Fitness Testing

Motivation can be a problem for many students with disabilities because they lack the intrinsic understanding and concept of giving “100%” effort. Physical educators may need to find extra motivating factors for students to perform at their potential. For example, in the long jump teachers could have students with disabilities reach out and jump to a buddy, jump out for a favorite toy, or jump over a colored rope. Students could also reach for a ball or toy during sit-ups and Sit & Reach tests or listen to their favorite music on a treadmill test for motivation. Motorized treadmills are excellent for cardiovascular endurance training and testing because they provide a “steady pace.”

Making the Physical Education Environment Handicap Accessible

This article presents some of the main guidelines mandated by the Architecture Barrier Act 1968 (ABA) and American with Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA), as well as suggestions to make the physical education environment compliant with the laws. These laws work together to help ensure buildings are readily accessible and services are readily achievable.

Between 1968-2008 amendments were made to improve the law’s ability to meet the unique needs of people with disabilities. However, following the “letter of the law” and the “intent” of the law is not the same. Accessibility is more than ramps, parking spaces, and dimensions of restrooms. Accessibility also impacts equipment, playing fields, pathways, programs, and polices that all contribute to the environment promoting equal access. We encourage all physical educators to go beyond what is legally required and make real changes that allow all students with disabilities full access and enjoyment in physical education.

When thinking about accessibility it’s important ask yourself, “Can a student who uses a wheelchair, access and participate in the activity?” If a students who uses a wheelchair either manual or battery powered can participate successfully, then the environment should be appropriate for all levels of disability. However, if the answer is “No,” then your program or services are not readily achievable and accessible to all.

Physical Activity Strategies for Busy Teachers

With another year just around the corner, it’s time once again to think about setting “New Year’s Resolutions.” For some of us, losing weight, eating healthier, and being more active is on the wish list toward our ideal self- image. A new year is always a great time for a new beginning, but of course it would be even better if it continued throughout the rest of the year and accumulated over time into progressively better health. Setting the right goals is essential to improving health and feeling successful. The favorite goal for most Americans is losing weight. But losing weight is not necessarily essential to improving one’s health and in many cases any weight initially lost is regained in equal or greater proportion as a person gives up on their drastic diet/exercise routine. Successful lifestyle changes result from small consistent adjustments that can be maintained as part of an overall healthier lifestyle.

Making a commitment to live a healthier lifestyle is not as daunting as many people imagine. Altering small daily habits can result in lasting improvements in health without requiring a full hour of dedicated exercise time in the busy schedule that we all seem to share. Making consistent everyday choices to be more active can make all the difference in your health. Here are some simple suggestions that you can easily fit into your schedule. Choose one or a couple of these suggestions and practice them until they simply become habits. You will likely not lose drastic amounts of weight or put on tons of muscle, but keep in mind that your health includes many more aspects than simply how you look or the number you see on the scale.

GOPHER