I remember working at a school and there was a 9 year old boy, Adam* who was diagnosed with EBD (emotional behavior disorder), but later got a diagnosis of ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder. Adam HATED gym. It made him cry and shut down. It was sad to watch. But, he needed to come to gym…every student does. He literally could not run, throw a ball, do a sit-up, hang on a rope, skip, hop or jump. It was sad….sad. Sad.
We realized that the reason that he HATED gym was the chaos that happened. Many students with Autism get stressed when there is chaos, noise and things flying around…yep, the gym. So…it was time to get creative. We came up with another plan (thus adapted PE). He would come to the gym with his class every day and our goal was to get him into the routine of the class as much as we could.Then he would leave with his SEA (special education assistant) and they would go walk. Each day we were able to keep him in just a little bit longer. And by a little bit…I mean second. It took from September to December before he was able to stay in the entire 40 minute class. As we progressed in the class we started to work on his basic motor skills. We modified everything. We put spots on the ground to show him how to skip. We did entire games with the class to work on throwing. We ran – all of us – staff and students every day to model for him.
We played tag games, running games, throwing games. He did dodging games, roller skating and went sledding. We played tennis and went bike riding. Often the class was in chaos., and he stayed in class. Once his diagnosis went through they changed his label from EBD to ASD and he moved schools. On his last day at our school at his “graduation” party he gave me a picture that he drew of a butterfly. On it he wrote…”Thank-you Ms. Tammy. Love, Adam”
Of course I still have this picture on my refrigerator…..I look at it often and think about how much we changed his life. I have kept tabs on him. He goes to mainstream PE and does well. He likes gym. Makes for a good day and a good story!
* Not his real name.
Author Tammy Cowan is a PE/Health Teacher in the Minneapolis. She holds a PE teaching license with a license in Developmental Adapted PE (DAPE) as well. In the past, the public school system in Minneapolis she works for is in a school that is a joint venture between the school system and the juvenile justice system. Many of Tammy’s students are referred from truancy or parole officers and are special education students or in the process of receiving evaluations.
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