Adapted Physical Education

Parent Link



M E N T A L  R E T A R D A T I O N

Major Concern #1


Children with mental retardation have difficulties in cognitive function that may make many traditional adult physical activity options more difficult. Specifically, the ability to understand complex directions and strategies in games is common in individuals with mental retardation.




Activities that involve one part directions are also inherent in many of the games and physical activity options we all know and love. For individuals with MR running activities may be something that the whole family can enjoy. The problem is getting kids with MR to understand the concept of pacing or jogging for distance rather than running for speed. Running with kids and setting a pace or even fast walking at first is recommended. Adding music is another way to help kids pace so that running or jogging for distance is enjoyed.


Modified games are also possible if rules and objectives are simplified for home and recreational play. For example when playing whiffleball or kick ball at home having only one base is recommended to simplify the game. The batter hits the ball runs to the lone base and then “home”.


Basketball can also be played without attention to dribbling as well as other lead up type games such as around the world or hotshot. Hotshot is a game where each player gets a turn at shooting for one minute and scores are awarded for baskets depending on how far from the hoop. Using cones or chalk to outline spots provides a game where other important counting and adding, as well as, rule following can be incorporated in backyard play. Keep in mind that basketball can be played using a lower basket if a child has trouble making baskets on a regulation hoop.


Major Concern #2


Delay in motor skills and hitting motor milestones is common in children with mental retardation. Keep in mind that experience is the critical factor in learning to move and the development of skills needed to play games common in society.




Skills such as catching and throwing can be done with just about any object. Having children learn to throw and catch stuffed animals is one way to get children experience in these important skills. Using hard balls leads to injuries and fear of getting hurt. Today softer baseballs and footballs are available. Make sure that children master the skill before using harder and heavier throwing objects. Even in Special Olympics type play, some teams use harder balls and bats. Training and practice where safety is foremost is critical if children are to develop the necessary skill to play at more advanced levels. Starting children when they can sit unassisted rolling a softer ball helps develop tracking and catching skills. Progress to bouncing and then to catching softer objects from short distances is recommended.


Major Concern #3


Many children with mental retardation may suffer from a history of failure and feedback from others about their lack of cognitive abilities. This can lead to “learned helplessness” or an over reliance on others during games and sports.




Reinforce your child’s success with comments about effort and their ability to do the task. For example a child who makes a basket needs to hear that their practice paid off and how “good they are”. However, when a child fails, provide feedback related to picking a better strategy next time. For example when a child misses a basket during basketball, they may have not pushed hard enough with their legs to get the ball to the hoop. Or if they did not catch the ball, they may have had their hands in a poor position. Telling a child to turn his hands over so his thumbs are facing to catch the high toss is better than telling them to try harder next time. It is unlikely that any child who misses a ball did so because he failed to try. This leads to two problems, the missed ball and the perception by the child that he “did not try hard enough.” Effort attributions for success and strategy attributions for unsuccessful attempts may go a long way to counteract what is believed to be a tendency for children with MR to feel helpless in sports or play situations.