Author: Phillip Conatser

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.

Achieving Physical Function through Orthotic Management

Bracing and orthotic management for children with disabilities is often overlooked in physical education. Orthotics may be defined as custom-made devices that are fabricated to address musculoskeletal deformities, deficits, or discrepancies, while attempting to increase function or regain mobility of a specific musculoskeletal structure.

Orthotic Brace

Orthotic wearing schedules, maintenance, and compliance are among some of the most important components leading to successful orthotic interventions or treatment plans. Physicians, orthotists, and therapists work diligently to select the most appropriate orthotic device for a child while considering his or her diagnosis, physical limitations, level of cognition, gait abnormalities, range of motion (ROM), skin sensitivities, and environmental factors. Because children wearing orthotic devices spend most of their time in school settings, it is important for adapted physical educators to understand the basic components of orthotic management in order to meet treatment goals, increase physical function, and most importantly to ensure the safety of the child.

Wearing Schedules

Typically, orthotic braces are prescribed to maintain alignment, prevent further deformity, and facilitate independence during functional activities. Orthotists and therapists generally instruct orthotic patients to wear the device during all physical activities, and recommend disuse of the orthosis during several activities of daily living such as bathing and sleeping. Adapted physical educators should keep the following factors in mind when working with special needs students who wear custom-made orthotics:

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