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Shape America

Society of Health and Physical Educators

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Adapted Physical Education National Standards

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Wrights Law

Special education law and advocacy 

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National Consortium for Physical Education for Individuals with Disabilities

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Adapted Physical Educators modify and adapt environments and tasks so that all students can be successful in PE.

Under the requirements of section 504 in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,  all students with disabilities are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This education includes instruction in physical education. Additionally, if necessary, that education must be adapted to a students unique needs and provided in the students least restrictive environment (LRE)

Additionally, under section 300.108 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), physical education services, specially designed if necessary, must be made available to every child with a disability receiving FAPE.

Adapted physical education (APE) is an additional service on a students Individualized Education Plan (IEP). A student may receive APE services if their disability is so severe that it impacts their ability to access the PE curriculum successfully in the general education setting. 


Depending on the unique needs of a student, an APE teacher may provide instruction in settings such as:

  • Consultation with the general physical education (GPE) teacher

  • Attending the general PE class to provide modifications, adaptations, specialized instruction, and ensure safety 

  • Providing instruction in a small group setting  

  • One-on-one setting with student 

  • Residential school for specific disabilities 

  • At the students home

  • At a medical institution 

(*This list encompasses some, but not all, LRE options for a student with a disability in PE. )

It is also common that the GPE teacher may have to accommodate and plan for students with special needs with limited support and/or resources.

Section 504 

Part of the rehabilitation act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based upon disability. It requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of non-disabled are met.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

Schools must provide children with disabilities and education, including specialized instruction and services, that prepares the child for further education, employment, and independent living. 

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)  

Class placement in which a child with a disability learns best; to the extent possible, students with disabilities should be educated with their typically developing peers unless it is not beneficial to do so. 

Adapted Physical Education (APE) 

Physical education instruction that is designed to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

Plan for students with disabilities that identifies specific educational needs and determines appropriate resources for addressing those needs. 

General Physical Education (GPE)

Physical education classes that consist of same-aged (grade) students who access a predetermined curriculum.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

IDEA is federal law that makes available FAPE to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.

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