This is an excerpt from Physical Education for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders by Michelle Grenier.
Instructional Delivery Using the Inclusion Spectrum
Five activity categories comprise the inclusion spectrum. Open activities are those that require little or no modifications to include all students. Modified activities are those that include everyone, with modifications or supports for certain students. Parallel activities involve grouping students according to ability; everyone performs the same skill or activity but at various levels. Separate activities are purposely planned for individuals or groups that require skill development lessons that differs from those of the students in the general curriculum. Disability sports, or reverse integration, activities are designed for people with disabilities. Within any given class structure, teachers may use more than one category of the inclusion spectrum depending on the student, the class, and the content.
Open activities are the most fluid of all the activities in the inclusion spectrum. In the open format, no modifications are necessary because the attributes generally lend themselves to the inclusion of all students. Consider, for example, a game of partner tag, which involves the skills of chasing and fleeing. Students can opt to move in their own way at their own speed particularly when the teacher uses commands such as “Move” rather than “Run.”
Open Activity Example 1: Partner Tag
Everyone finds a partner. On the signal, partners move around the gymnasium and avoid getting tagged as they try to tag another pair of partners. When this happens, each pair switches roles. Chasers become fleers and fleers become chasers. The open end of the inclusion spectrum allows students the flexibility to move in their own ways. It involves a significant amount of teaching by invitation, which enables them to move according to their own abilities (Mosston & Ashworth, 2002). Students with ASD can choose their means and methods of partnering with other students, or their partners can be preselected by the teacher. Because there are minimal task limitations, students’ varying speeds and ways of moving can be accommodated.
Open Activity Example 2: Dribbling Skills
On the teacher’s command, “Everyone get a ball and start moving around,” everyone in the class selects a ball and starts traveling around the gymnasium. Students can elect the type of ball and the way they propel it. Students with limited skill can simply walk with the ball. More advanced students can dribble the ball. Typically during open activities, movement concepts—such as moving quickly or slowly, or at high or low levels—(Graham et al., 2009) can be applied to give versatility to the skill without compromising the integrity of the activity.
Modifying the skill, activity, or game allows students with ASD to display their skills through the use of differentiation and equipment modification (Ellis, Lieberman, & LeRoux, 2009). Differentiation involves the use of teaching strategies and learning materials that help students make sense of ideas regardless of their differences in ability. It is important to note that some of the modifications may be specific to the student with ASD, whereas others may involve the entire class such as a rule change or an equipment choice for everyone.
When modifying activities, physical educators need to consider the physical capacities of their students and the primary social challenges these capacities entail. Although some may be able to move quickly through a series of progressions, others, perhaps those with sensory overload or motor challenges, may not be able to accomplish the task at the same speed as their classmates. Typically teachers use one of two approaches to skill analysis. They may adopt a developmental, or bottom-up, approach whereby the student progresses from easier to more difficult skills (Block, 2007; Sherrill, 2004). For example, if a student is not able to hit a target using a racket, he could use his hand to strike. An alternative to this is the ecological approach, in which the task is analyzed according to its outcomes. In this method, the teacher focuses on the goal (getting the ball to the target) rather than the process of getting it there (using proper throwing technique). In this case, the student simply needs to find a way to get the ball to hit the target, either by throwing or striking. Modifications at the instructional level may include the use of visual supports or social stories to help students with ASD better comprehend the task.
Modified Activity Example 1: Jump Rope
While some students are participating in a jump rope activity using the full circular swing, others may elect to jump over ropes placed on the floor or ropes that swing only halfway. Some may need hand-to-hand support while jumping, and others may be able to execute the skill without any physical support. This is an example of a skill modification that uses the developmental approach.
Modified Activity Example 2: Social Stories
One primary modification for students with ASD is the use of social stories and visual scripts. Social stories may be used to head off a potential outburst, and scripts can be used to ease the transition into physical education. An example of this is provided in the opening scenario. This is an example of an instructional approach to support student learning.
Learn more about Physical Education for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders.