My grade-schooler has dyspraxia. I know kids with severe dyspraxia can get out of gym class. But my son’s issues are on the milder side. Is there a benefit to keeping him in gym class? Should I push the school to take him out or encourage him to keep at it?
This is a good question, and I can help you get closer to an answer. Here are some key things to consider about your child, the physical education program and the PE teacher when you’re deciding.
School schedule: Is PE the only time he has for physical activity? What about socializing? Are there other times during the school day for him to interact with peers outside of his regular class?
Self-esteem: Has your child been taken out of other classes for remedial work? If so, how does he feel about that? Is your child able to see his strengths and talents in other areas?
Knowledge about sports: Your child may be less comfortable playing a team sport if he doesn’t understand the rules or know the vocabulary. Does he know what a goalie is or what it means to be offsides? Studying game terms and concepts could help your child feel less frustrated in PE.
Self-advocacy: Does your child understand his challenges? Can he explain them to other people? Working on self-advocacy skills could help him in PE. For example, if it’s hard for him to track a soccer ball, he could say, “I would prefer not to play goalie. I think I’ll be more helpful to the team if I play in the field.”
Overall attitude about PE: Does your child want to be part of the class? Or does his stomach hurt every time he has to go to PE? Does your child like the PE teacher and feel that the teacher likes him? It might help if you ask the teacher to ease up on yelling or joking—even if this is how he interacts with the rest of the kids in class.
PE curriculum: Does the program cover a variety of activities such as yoga and aquatics? Or does it mostly cover team sports that involve using a ball? Find out whether your child has any choices in the activities. You can also ask for a calendar of activities so your child can prepare for them at home.
Informal accommodations: When a planned activity will be very hard for your child, can the teacher offer alternatives? Examples include helping referee or keeping score. Can the teacher break down skills so your child can have success with one part even if he can’t do the whole thing?
Group dynamics: Is the teacher willing to help your child not stand out? See if she’d find ways of picking teams so the least skilled athletes aren’t always picked last. Or create lines for an activity so that your child is toward the back but without any stigma. Watching others can help your child prepare before it’s his turn.
Teacher dynamics: Is the PE teacher sensitive to your child’s challenges? Does the teacher understand how dyspraxia affects your child’s skills? See if the teacher is open to getting feedback from you. Ask what skills you can work on at home. See if you can partner with the teacher to find ways to give your child positive feedback.
It might take you a little time to get the answers to these questions. But this information will help you figure out if your child can stay in the class and have a positive experience.
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About the author
About the author
Jim Rein, MA has lectured on postsecondary options and summer programs for kids and young adults with learning and thinking differences.