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    Paraeducators share strategies for helping students with disabilities in P.E.
    Posted on 09/19/2014
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    How much should a student with a disability be encouraged to participate in physical education class? How much space does the student need? What if the student experiences sensory overload in P.E.?

    These are some of the questions asked by the 38 instructional assistants who participated this week in training in the APP@Lincoln gym in Wallingford.

    When multiple adults are working with a student, it can be tricky to sort out who provides the support and how and when. "If we're confused about it, imagine that child," Toni Bader, adapted physical education specialist, told the group during the afternoon of professional development.

    Instructional assistants, sometimes called paraeducators, may be assigned to help one or more students with disabilities through the school day. The training on September 16 was designed to help instructional assistants support students in P.E. class, which can present particular challenges.

    One challenge, for example, is how closely instructional assistants should work with their students during physical activities. Sometimes it's better for the student to have more support, but sometimes they need more physical independence. Participants discussed how and when to give students space.

    "(The instructional assistants) are in a caring profession, and so they care, but sometimes it's too much caring," said Kim Van Atta, instructional services school coach, who helped organize the training.

    The instructional assistants worked together to identify unique physical education classroom needs (see photo) as well as the roles and responsibilities of the paraeducator and the P.E. teacher and areas where those roles overlap.

    Bader provided practical tips for the instructional assistants, such as setting up a "sensory toolbox" in the corner of the gym for students who need a break but want to continue watching the activity. She also explained and demonstrated the fitness testing all students will be participating in this year and ways to adapt that to students with disabilities.

    Bader encouraged the instructional assistants to communicate frequently about individual student needs with P.E. teachers, who typically see hundreds of students each week.

    Physical education teachers received training on how to work with instructional assistants and their students last year. The district will continue professional development for all staff on working with students with disabilities, including how to support them in physical education and becoming physically active.