DULUTH, Minn. – Several years ago, when the Duluth Public Schools were looking to fill an apprenticeship in developmentally adaptive physical education, Leigh Ann Viche, a Duluth teacher in the field, said the district was having difficulty finding someone approved in this area of physical education .
“There weren’t any (developmentally adaptive physical education teachers) who applied, but then they republished it and they finally got people,” Viche said. “We were really lucky. We have two really highly skilled people but both moved to the area from out of town. So there was really nobody in our area. “
Daehyoung Lee, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota at Duluth, is now part of an effort to increase the number of local PE teachers who are also licensed to teach students with developmental and physical disabilities. The federal government stipulates that all public schools offer disabled students the opportunity, but teachers do not have to be certified in the region.
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“It is possible you can teach (developmentally adaptive physical education) without a license, but the problem is that there is a lack of teachers who are truly qualified to teach,” Lee said.
Of the 21 colleges in Minnesota that offer physical education degrees, only six offer minors with adaptive physical education.
UMD hired Lee to develop the minor so that the university’s sports students can also obtain a license to teach students with special needs. UMD re-offered the minor this semester after the program ended approximately 30 years ago.
Lee said students studying physical education are the only ones who can qualify for the add-on license, but he hopes to make the courses accessible to all.
“I’m trying to open my door to our pre-physical therapy, occupational therapy, and special education teachers,” said Lee. “You still need to understand what kind of disability-related challenges these students have.”
A large part of the curriculum consists of addressing medical conditions that are common to people with disabilities. For example, Lee said, about a quarter of people with Down syndrome have a condition known as atlantoaxial instability.
“If you have pressure on your neck, a spinal cord injury occurs. Many teachers are not aware of this condition, ”he said. “Indeed, if you don’t know this information, you can find a lot of problems.”
The program not only teaches how to avoid harm while teaching physical education to students with disabilities, but also aims to make physical activity accessible and accessible to all people throughout their lives.
According to Lee, teaching people with disabilities lifelong physical activity habits while they are still in school is especially important as there are no community-based adult programs that focus on physical and social activities.
“This population is largely isolated from our society,” he said.
Adults with disabilities are almost 12% more likely to be obese and 9% more likely to have diabetes than non-disabled adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Before embarking on any more specialized form of physical activity, Lee studied sports science in college and had a strong background in taekwondo. Then, when he was around 22 years old, he met who was going to become his sister-in-law.
“She has a very severe disability,” said Lee. “When I looked at her and experienced the family problems of growing up, I had the feeling that maybe I can shift my career path, maybe I can use my talents, my practice background for this population.”
There are several ways to teach development-adaptive physical education in schools. In Duluth, special school students are integrated as much as possible into general physical education. In the meantime, other parts of the state and nation are just beginning to unite adaptive and general physical education classes.
“We realized the importance of having children together,” said Viche, the Duluth teacher. “Children are children. You need to be with other children. Children with special needs learn from their peers in general education, and children in general education learn from peers with special needs. “
Kay Oling was an adaptive sports development teacher at Duluth Public Schools for more than 30 years before he recently retired. She is still active in this area and serves as the regional representative for a nationwide leadership committee.
“I loved it. I enjoyed it,” Oling said of teaching. “I like the challenge of the different disability groups. How can you get them to be more active? What do they need for the equipment?”
She said she always had duct tape and PVC tubing on hand to make adjustments to the equipment. To this day, her garage is filled with equipment she has manufactured over the years.
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