Future Reflections Fall 1989, Vol. 8 No. 3

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SOME THOUGHTS ON ADAPTIVE PHYSICAL EDUCATION

by Allen Harris

Editor's Note: This article is taken from an interview I once conducted with Mr. Allen Harris. Mr. Harris is the president of the NFB of Michigan (he is blind). He is also a social studies teacher and a wrestling and swimming coach. He has coached at least six high school wrestling teams that have won league championships and one high school state championship team. His age group swimming teams have won five state conference championships, and his age group wrestling teams have won six. He has headed up the Social Studies Department at the Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn since 1984, and consequently has had to give up many coaching responsibilities in recent years. In 1985 he was selected by the National Council on Social Studies as one of two outstanding teachers of social studies in the state of Michigan.

Now, what about adaptive P.E.? Adaptive physical education very often is just a way to keep blind youngsters out of regular physical education classes. Regular physical education teachers think they can't teach blind kids. All adaptive P.E. does for a lot of blind kids is keep them out of the way. Sometimes they do some physical activity, but it isn't really equivalent to what the other kids are expected to do. Other times they just sit and read or do homework. Parents need to know that blind kids can participate in regular P.E., and demand it for their child.

Adaptive P.E. can be appropriate in those cases where the alternative is to exclude the child.

Sometimes, especially in the elementary level, all the kids may do in regular P.E. is play baseball all the time. Then, if I were a parent, I might opt for a more varied program. I think that those instances, frankly, are really very limited. It can also be appropriate for the child that has been delayed in physical development, as long as the goal is to integrate into the regular program as soon as possible.

What's true in the schools is also true in the community. That is, blind kids can participate in regular P.E. in school and they participate in regular recreational programs in your town. Some parents who live in my community called me because they had a four year old blind daughter and they wanted her to take swimming lessons. They thought they would have to have pay for private lessons, or get her in a special program. I said, "Baloney. Everyone else here goes over to the local swimming pool and they can take free lessons. So, let's do that." It so happened that a student of mine (who also happened to be my neighbor) was a swimming instructor at the local pool. I took these parents to her and we got their daughter lined up for swimming lessons --just like the other kids.

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