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Child in floatee with supervisor in poolDisability Specific Health and Safety Considerations for Participating in Adapted Physical Education and Adapted Physical Activity

Specific considerations must be made for every individual who wishes to participate in physical education or physical activity. For example, a person with osteoarthritis of the left knee may need to walk instead of run for fitness. To be safe, an individual who wishes to participate in physical education or physical activity should consult with a physician.

A wonderful resource for specific information about health related fitness and individuals with disabilities is the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.  Its resources include: a research citation base; fact sheets; and national resource directories of facilities, programs and events related to physical activity and disability. Soon, website visitors will be able use the site to develop customized fitness regimes.


Specific Considerations

Individuals with an Amputation

  • During contact sports, upper limb prosthetics should not be worn

  • In other activities, upper limb prosthetics may be needed to maintain balance and timing

Individuals with Arthritis

  • Avoid contact activities as they may increase pain and damage joints.

  • Be aware that depression and anger are common

  • Be aware of any medications and their possible side effects

Individuals with Asthma

  • Avoid potential irritants (grass, dust, allergens, smog, ozone, etc.)

  • Use periods of rest with easy breathing to treat minor attacks

Individuals with Cerebral Palsy

  • Communicate with the individual's physician, with permission of individual/parent/guardian

  • Monitor activities being cautious not to fatigue the student

  • Allow extra space for the activity to accommodate difficulties with balance and involuntary muscle spasms

  • Provide relaxation activities in order to decrease involuntary muscle movements in individuals with athetoid cerebral palsy

Individuals with Cystic Fibrosis

  • Allow the individual with cystic fibrosis to leave activities to clear lungs when needed

  • Be aware that hot weather and heavy perspiration may dehydrate the individual

Individuals with Diabetes

  • Help younger persons or those with newly diagnosed diabetes to regulate their activities by keeping activities similar in duration and intensity. Expect individuals with experience to regulate their own exercise

  • If activities will be longer than usual, allow the individual with disability to break for a snack

  • Be cautious of any damage to the skin

  • Keep a piece of candy or packet of sugar on hand in case of an insulin reaction

Individuals Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

  • Ask the student to remove any hearing aids/hearing devices during rigorous activities or aquatic activities

  • Be aware that the individual may have poor balance and may be fearful of balance activities

  • Precautions should be taken to limit climbing and apparatus work until the person has adequate body control

Individuals with Down Syndrome

  • Be aware that the individual may have poor balance and may be fearful of balance activities

  • Check the individual's medical records for congenital heart conditions and atlantoaxial instability

  • If the individual with Down syndrome has atlanto-axial instability, avoid activities that hyperextend or put extreme pressure on the neck. These activities include: gymnastics, diving, swimming the butterfly stroke, the high jump, “heading” in soccer, and collision sports

Individuals with Heart Disease

  • Monitor activities, being cautious not to fatigue the student

  • Watch for the signs of fatigue (faintness, chest pain, rapid heart rate, cyanosis and shortness of breath) and if present, have the student rest. Call 911

Individuals with Hemophilia

  • Avoid contact sports

  • Seek medical attention for scratches, bumps, and bruises

Individuals with Learning Disabilities

  • Be aware of any medications and their possible side effects

  • Be aware that the individual with a learning disability may have poor balance, related to vestibular dysfunction, and may be fearful of balance activities

Individuals with Spina Bifida

  • Watch for skin damage and pressure sores

  • Be aware that the individual with spina bifida may have a loss of injury sensation, particularly in the lower extremities

  • Be aware that the individual with spina bifida may be catheterized and on a toileting schedule

  • Following activities, instruct the individual with spina bifida to check under their braces for any possible damage

Individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries

  • Be aware that the individual with a spinal cord injury may have a loss of injury sensation, particularly in the lower extremities

  • Be aware that the individual with spinal cord injuries may be catheterized and on a toileting schedule

  • Be aware of any medications and their possible side effects

  • Avoid hot weather and heavy perspiration if the individual with spinal cord injuries is unable to regulate his/her body temperature

Visually Impaired and Blind

  • Avoid activities which could result in blows to the head

  • For individuals with glaucoma, avoid weight lifting activities because they cause an increase in the ocular pressure

  • Use sound devices or bright multicolored equipment to help reduce the individual's fear of movement during activities

  • If the individual wears glasses, wear safety glasses to protect them

page last updated 10/9/2014 6:14 PM