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Adaptive Physical Education Specialists


In the mid-1800s, physical education classes were an important part of a well-rounded education in the United States. Prior to this time, physical education focused mostly on gymnastics, hygiene, and instruction in how to take care of the human body. By the 1850s and 1860s, Ohio and California had passed laws that made physical education programs mandatory in public schools. Students were required to exercise twice a day.

Degree programs for physical education teachers were introduced to colleges and universities in the 1950s in the United States. The government intensified its focus on physical education programs in schools after the Korean War, during which Americans proved to be less fit than they should be. Half of the U.S. students back then failed a portion of the fitness tests while only 8 percent of European students failed a portion of the tests. President Eisenhower introduced the Council on Physical Fitness and Sports to improve Americans' fitness, and President Kennedy took this further and helped to develop a physical education curriculum. As a result, schools placed greater emphasis on physical education.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted in 1990, mandating that all school-aged people with disabilities have access to physical education in a normal school environment. The act also mandated that each student with a disability would have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) created for them, including an adapted physical education program specific to their needs.

Today, adapted physical education specialists use a variety of techniques and tools to create sports programs geared to the student's age and developmental level, to help them improve their physical fitness and motor skills, increase self-esteem, and build friendships and community.