What Is Adapted Physical Education?

Physical education includes giving students the opportunity to learn and practice:

  • Physical and motor skills
  • Fundamental motor skills and patterns that involve using all muscles in the body in a coordinated fashion
  • Skills such as aquatic skills, dance, games, and team sports

These activities help the body’s muscles and nervous system alike to develop in a way that sustains long-term health and well-being.

However, some children might have trouble accessing physical education. When children have disabilities, some teachers might not know how to give them physical education that is safe for them and meets their body’s needs.

This is where Adapted Physical Education teachers come in. These teachers know how to customize physical education to meet the needs of people with disabilities. They are the superheroes of the physical education world, who are able to help those who need it most.

Adapted Physical Education Definition

Adapted physical education is physical education that is adapted to meet the needs of people with disabilities, both for safety and to address a student’s specific developmental needs.

In this article we’ll discuss:

Benefits of Adapted Physical Education

The role of physical education in child development was underappreciated for many years. Arguments that intellectual skills would be more useful in adult life than physical skills led to a neglect of physical education programs in some schools, especially for students with disabilities.

But recent advances in science have proven what many physical education teachers already knew: that physical education is actually essential for healthy brain development.

Recent studies are also showing that adequate physical education can improve outcomes from health problems that may occur due to inadequate muscular development.

Specific benefits of physical education, which may be especially essential for disabled students, include:

  1. Building strong bones for lifelong resistance to injury
  2. Building strong muscles to safely support bones and joints
  3. Improving the health and strength of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels
  4. Preventing or reducing health problems stemming from obesity, musculoskeletal disorders, and lung capacity problems
  5. Improving mood and self-esteem
  6. Increasing attention span, problem-solving abilities, and motivation
  7. Providing a sense of accomplishment and confidence
  8. Reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and ADHD
  9. Teaching teamwork and important social skills
  10. Improving neuromuscular development, which may have far-reaching consequences for both mental and physical abilities

The Role of an Adapted Physical Education Specialist

Adapted physical education specialists may work at private or public schools, or sometimes be contracted by other clients or organizations who work with children with special needs.

Adapted physical education specialists serve the invaluable purpose of helping children live their best lives by using their knowledge of the human body and brain. These specialists can help children with a range of disabilities develop strength, skills, health and a strong sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.

So how do you become an Adapted Physical Education specialist?


Adapted Physical Education specialists will need:

  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field, such as Physical Education, Kinesiology, or Sports Science
  • Meet the requirements of your state to teach Adapted Physical Education. Teacher requirements may vary by state, but may include things like:
    • Obtaining a current and valid teaching certificate
    • Completing a certain number of hours of supervised work under a certified Adapted Physical Education specialist
    • Completing certain courses or credit hours studying Adapted Physical Education
  • Knowledge of how to create lesson plans and developmental plans for students, and evaluate their progress using goals.
  • A desire to work with children with special needs.
  • The ability to provide positive feedback to encourage students who may suffer from anxiety and boost the self-esteem of all students.

Where Do Adapted Physical Education Specialists Work?

Adapted Physical Education specialists most often work in public or private schools. They may sometimes also be contracted by other organizations such as summer camps or private parties to work with children during summer vacation or after school hours.

ProCare’s job search can help you find jobs that are available in Adapted Physical Education right now. This will give you an idea of the types of places where Adapted Physical Education specialists work in your local area.

Adapted Physical Education Salary

Adapted Physical Education teacher salaries can range from $34,000 to $99,000, depending on experience and employer.

About half of U.S. Adapted Physical Education specialists had salaries between $44,000-$64,000 in 2019.

Benefits of Being a Teacher

When considering becoming an Adapted Physical Education specialist, you might also want to read up on some general pros and cons of being a teacher. 

Final Thoughts on the Importance of Adapted Physical Education

Adapted Physical Education activities are crucial for the well-being of people with disabilities.

Physical education is crucial for all people, and the ability to adapt physical education to be safe and optimally beneficial for people with disabilities is key to equal treatment and optimal outcomes for children with physical or learning disabilities.

If you have a desire to work with children and to help people with disabilities, a career in Adaptive Physical Education might just be right for you.

Adapted Physical Education Jobs