Differentiating Instruction for Students with Disabilities

Quality adapted physical education involves the physical educator differentiating instruction to meet the needs, interests, and abilities of each individual student. That differentiation might involve the teacher adapting/ modifying the content, process, environment, and/or student assessment. Below we have provided numerous ways that some sports and activities can be modified and/or changed to meet the needs of each student. The goal is to have students participate in activities where all students can learn and be successful. Check out this great Best Practice called: Disability Awareness in Physical Activity Best Practice Idea.

Adaptations for Specific Activities

General Adaptation Suggestions


Larger/lighter bat
Use of velcro
Larger goal/target
Mark positions on playing field
Lower goal/target
Scoops for catching
Vary balls (size, weight, color, texture)

Rules Prompts, Cues:

Demonstrate/model activity
Partner assisted
Disregard time limits
Oral prompt
More space between students
Eliminate outs/strike-outs
Allow ball to remain stationary
Allow batter to sit in chair
Place student with disability near teacher

Boundary/Playing Field:

Decrease distance
Use well-defined boundaries
Simplify patterns
Adapt playing area (smaller, obstacles removed)


Change locomotor patterns
Modify grasps
Modify body positions
Reduce number of actions
Use different body parts


Vary the tempo
Slow the activity pace
Lengthen the time
Shorten the time
Provide frequent rest periods


Simplify/reduce the number of steps
Use two hands instead of one
Remain in stationary position
Use a ramp
Use a partner
Give continuous verbal cues


Use various size balls (size, weight, texture, color)
Allow travelling
Allow two hand dribble
Disregard three second lane violation
Use larger/lower goal
Slow the pace, especially when first learning
If student uses wheelchair, allow him to hold ball on his lap while pushing wheelchair
Use beeper ball, radio under basket for individual with visual impairment


Use a club with a larger head
Use shorter/lighter club
Use colored/larger balls
Practice without a ball
Use tee for all shots
Shorten distance to hole


Use walking instead of running
Have well defined boundaries
Reduce playing area
Play six-a-side soccer
If student uses a wheelchair, allow him to hold ball on his lap while pushing the wheelchair
Use a deflated ball, nerf ball, beeper ball, brightly colored ball
Use a target that makes noise when hit


Use velcro balls and mitts
Use larger or smaller bats
Use a batting tee
Reduce the base distances
Use Incrediballs
Shorten the pitching distance
If individual is in wheelchair, allow them to push ball off ramp, off lap, or from tee
Use beeper balls
Provide a peer to assist
Players without disabilities play regular depth defense
Students without disabilities count to ten before tagging out person with disability


Use larger, lighter, softer, bright colored balls
Allow players to catch ball instead of volleying
Allow student to self toss and set ball
Lower the net
Reduce the playing court
Stand closer to net on serve
Allow ball to bounce first
Hold ball and have student hit it


Use larger, lighter balls
Use shorter, lighter racquets
Use larger head racquets
Slow down the ball
Lower the net or do not use a net
Use brightly colored balls
Hit ball off tee
Allow a drop serve
Stand closer to net on serve
Do not use service court
Use a peer for assistance

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