August 2, 2023
The Importance of Physical Education in a Child's Life
by Stella Porto SDA ED.D
Having worked as a special educator for 29 years in one of the world’s largest school systems, I noticed a trend of inappropriate classroom behaviors that could be addressed through physical education.
In April of 1999, I published a journal article in The Journal of Autism & Developmental Disabilities of The Effects of Exercise on the Self-Stimulatory Behaviors and Positive Responding of Adolescents with Autism (v27 n2 p193-202 Apr 1997). The study investigated the effects of aerobic exercise on self-stimulatory behaviors (repetitive body movements to stimulate one’s own senses) and the academic performance of five adolescent males with autism. I found a significant decrease in self-stimulatory behavior following physical exercise. Academic performance increased after participating in aerobic exercise. I used these findings throughout my career in special education as much as possible, but it wasn’t feasible. As a result, I saw significant challenges in students' behaviors. If I would have had Kibu’s resources to use with my students, I believe the adverse behaviors would have decreased.
Related Services, or the supportive services prescribed by a doctor to assist a child with a disability, are much needed for a child’s development. This may include speech-language pathology, audiology services, interpretive services, psychological or physical/occupational therapy, etc. A typical special education child’s day varies on their level of independence and ability to keep up with their peers. Mornings are a hectic time for all families, especially ones that have children with special needs. From bus rides to meeting up with friends, and getting situated for the day, the mornings are chaotic, to say the least. As a result, children’s behavioral responses in the mornings are often heightened. Some students are taken for related services as soon as they are off the bus, providing no time for the child to settle in for the day.
From my experience, teachers that incorporate movement every morning before starting the academic day see more positive results in relation to their students' focus and performance. That’s where I see Kibu providing a revolutionary approach to the need for movement in the classroom. Whether it be yoga, meditation, dance, or martial arts, teachers can choose an on-demand instructional movement video for their students each and every day, providing a sensory and exploratory release for all students while developing their gross motor skills.
Kibu can also be seen as a solution to the sensory overload of P.E. classes and group activities. Physical Education teachers often play loud music and may have flashing lights or other loud noises during indoor activities/games. Many students are also sensitive to bright sunlight outdoors and the sound of squeaking sneakers on the gym floor. This could make it difficult for some students to attend and participate in class. Physical education teachers need to incorporate these sensory needs into a class's lesson plan, which can be difficult when working with so many different students. However, differentiating the lessons according to sensory needs should be the first priority, although it is often put on the back burner. While there are many solutions to these sensory issues (i.e. installing sensitive lights or turning the music down), Kibu could provide students with an individualized experience that is accessible to all types of students. This would alleviate the pressure that educators feel to meet all children’s needs.
Kibu is the perfect opportunity for team-building exercises in your classrooms, related services, day treatment programs, and even family time. Instead of competitive games that may escalate undesired behaviors, the class can focus on a Kibu video. The group of students could be tasked with trying to memorize the dance routine or karate sequence, pushing them to work together. This is another example of how Kibu can help support classrooms.
In the year 2010, the US Department of Education made recommendations to increase accessibility in physical education classes. From my experience, this was not an easy task to fulfill. Space and schedules were tough to work with and still are today. Hard surfaces such as concrete, rocks, and asphalt are dangerous for individuals with dyspraxia, and softer surfaces such as sand or wood chips make it difficult to maneuver a wheelchair. Gym surfaces and outdoor mats are one way to make physical education more accessible. Another would be to have a means of projecting a Kibu video and making space to exercise in the already accessible classrooms.
Social Emotional Literacy & Personalized Learning Paths
Every person has challenges that they go through at different times throughout one’s day. These challenges sometimes affect the classroom. Different variables such as scheduling changes, substitute teachers, medication issues, sensory issues, and personal problems at home are a few things students go through that affect their behavior in the classroom. Class rules and a PBIS system can only do so much to support these behaviors. (Positive Behavioral Interventions Support is a method that works to prevent negative behaviors and increase appropriate interactions.) Imagine also setting up a student’s learner profile that included Kibu to help support a child's social and emotional literacy.
Learner profiles maintain an up-to-date record of students' goals, strengths, needs, and progress. The class lessons are taught through positive interactions, and the lesson is reinforced by referring back to behavioral expectations and evaluating progress. Using Kibu as a warm-up for students before their school day or class could help assist a child’s personal learning path by providing a meaningful and appropriate choice of material. The combination of a good PBIS system and Kibu can be great for a school’s social-emotional literacy plan.
Through the use of Kibu, it is still possible to incorporate physical activity and healthy lifestyle habits into a special education curriculum that can transition to the students' home/school schedule. It has been demonstrated and observed through research that exercise enhances cognitive function, academic performance and decreasing of self -stimulatory behaviors. Social skills and collaborative teamwork also benefit a balanced physical education program. Physical education can be inclusive and accessible to all students so that they can learn life lessons that can’t be taught in a traditional classroom. Exercise needs to be incorporated every day into a person’s life, and Kibu is ready to help!
Written by Stella Porto SDA ED.D