Guidance & FAQs about Adapted Physical Education

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Adapted physical education is physical education that has been modified so it is appropriate for students with disabilities. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004), all students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) should receive effective physical education services.

PE Does Not Have to Occur in a Gym or a School Building

SHAPE America: Position Statement explains how students with disabilities who are enrolled in community-based transition programs may receive physical education in community-based settings.

This guidance includes best practices and recommendations for providing community-based physical education and flows from policy guidance from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) stating that students with disabilities who are enrolled in community-based transition programs may receive physical education in community-based settings.

Answering Frequently Asked Questions about Adapted Physical Educationa comprehensive new resource from SHAPE America!

SHAPE America recommends that an adapted physical education specialist provide the instruction and/or consultative support to the general physical education teacher for a student’s IEP.


“This guidance document answers common questions about providing physical
education services for students with disabilities.

The document was developed as a resource for physical educators, adapted physical educators, school district administrators, and parents as they work to provide consistent adapted physical education (APE) services for students with disabilities.”

Find answers to these questions and more…

  • Is physical education required for students with disabilities?
  • What is the difference between APE and specially-designed physical education?
  • At what age are children with disabilities eligible to receive APE services?
  • How does a student qualify for APE services?
  • When should students with disabilities have IEP goals related to APE?
  • What is the difference between APE services delivered under an IEP and a Section 504 plan?
  • Should APE be provided in a separate class?
  • How is APE different from physical therapy or occupational therapy?
  • Does APE apply to intramurals or athletics?

Learn more on Wrightslaw’s page – Physical Education for Students with Disabilities

Physical Education Position Statements and Guidance Documents from SHAPE America

  1. Hello, when I was growing up I had adapted PE. I never had a 504 plan. I am 42 so I understand laws change.

    Do you need a 504 plan for adapted P.E.? Even if the disability is a hidden physical disability?

    Thank you in advance

  2. If a student’s IEP states the student will receive APE services three times weekly must those three times weekly be completed? Or, is it okay, due to staff shortage, that APE staff be removed from their APE duties to assist in classrooms and APE services do not happen?

    • Travis, a school’s responsibility to provide services listed in an IEP do not go away due to lack of staff. School’s are required to provide “compensatory services” to make up for the missed services. In some cases the school will agree to do this without the parent making a complaint to the state education agency or requesting a due process hearing. Your state parent training and information project can assist you in dealing with this issue.

  3. We were hoping someone could answer a few questions about our daughter’s disability and APE…we requested testing for her disability and the APE instructor gave her a super easy evaluation and stated she passed with flying colors and therefore did not qualify…..
    Anyone have tips for us…??

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