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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU keeping up with growing adapted physical education field

Society has recognized many of the special needs of those with disabilities. For instance, every parking lot you drive into will likely have one or more disabled parking spots and a ramp leading up to the door along with stairs. Sports, however is one area where a disability may be perceived as "game over."

But now, the adapted physical education (APE) graduate minor offered by the College of Education at New Mexico State University will train educators to teach physical education in a manner that is "as appropriate for a person with a disability as it is for a person without a disability."

"APE is good teaching," said Scott Pedersen, assistant professor of APE at NMSU. "We individualize our programs and train people to be creative and change rules, boundaries and equipment to suit the student."

Pedersen said there are a few institutions with strong APE programs, but in general, NMSU is ahead of the game among universities. At the institutions where APE is taught, Pedersen said there is beginning to be a lack of instructors.

"There is a changing of the guard taking place," Pedersen said. "Most APE professors are retiring and there are not many schools that offer it."

The National Consortium for Physical Education and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities recognizes only 52 institutions that offer APE programs in the United States.

In 1975 the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was passed into law and set the guidelines for special education. IDEA demands that children with disabilities receive free appropriate public education, which includes physical education. Pedersen says it is important that the public is aware of this.

"I want parents to know that their child with a disability deserves physical education, whether or not the school thinks it's necessary," Pedersen said.

With the graduate minor in APE available at NMSU steps are being made to supply those children with physical educators that are responsive to their needs. In addition to courses in Adapted Physical Education and Adapted Physical Activity, the department now offers Adapted Physical Education: A Practitioner's Approach and Adapted Physical Education National Standards Professional Preparation, an online course that is endorsed by the National Consortium for Physical Education and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities and primes students to pass the Adapted Physical Education National Standards test and become Certified Adapted Physical Educators.

Teresa E. Garcia, who received a bachelor's degree in social work and dance at NMSU in 2001, is the first person to take advantage of the graduate minor. She said her decision to work with people with disabilities motivated her to participate in the NMSU APE program.

"Many people that transition from school to work say they were not prepared, I am," Garcia said. "I have gotten more out of the NMSU APE program than most people get out of their whole college career."

In addition to the advantages of the program itself, Garcia said that the program director makes APE an even more beneficial experience.

"Dr. Pedersen is one of those professors people wish for," Garcia said. "Working with a professor that really wants you to learn and wants to provide opportunities is a great perk. Where else can you get on the job training and a master's degree simultaneously?"

In addition to the graduate minor, the NMSU APE program also sponsors events to raise awareness and foster support for the disabled community, such as the Walk-n-Roll Tennis League, a free tennis league for people with or without disabilities at all experience levels held at the NMSU Tennis Center and the Lions Survivor Camp, a week-long overnight summer camp for deaf or hard of hearing children that features a variety of lifetime recreational activities.

For more information on NMSU APE or its sponsored activities, visit http://education.nmsu.edu/nmsuape or call Pedersen at (505) 646-2071.