Monthly Archives: December 2012

Dec 10

A Day In The Life of an Adapted PE Teacher

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of side leg swings, excellent for dynamic mobility

This is one of the exercises my student uses.

Monday’s are going to end up being my favorite day of the week. Two of my students are much higher functioning than I’m used to. It’s going to be so fun to work with them!

The first student was just added to my caseload. She loves PE and a lot of sports. Her balance and strength need some work as do her manipulative skills but she is very motivated and loves to have fun.

Today was our first real meeting after the assessment so I kept it light and easy. We played some games (a hockey/golf version) and played around with some of my sports/games equipment. I also had her do some “Rockets” which are assisted squats. Every time you come up  you count, “3,2,1, Rocket!” and stand up as fast as you can.

I’m doing these with her for two reasons. One she needs the leg strength but also she has a hard time pronouncing the “R” sound. I figure I’m getting double the benefit. I’m going to be giving her a lot of R games as we move along.

The second student is really improving. I’m noticing that his running form is getting better without even being told to work on it. That is a positive sign.

These are front leg swings. He is to do ten each leg.

One of the exercises I gave him was Leg Swings from the front and side. While he was doing them he said it made his legs feel great which was another added bonus.

I’ll write more about what we did because his workout for the week is a good one for many kids.

Dec 08

Winter Sports for Family Fitness

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Ski Tripping…. Sierra At Tahoe2…-1Well, it’s winter time and there’s snow in Tahoe. So the PE equipment is put away, the car is straightened up and the ski racks are on. Sierra at Tahoe…here we come.

Skiing (or snowboarding) is a great family activity. Not only does it force everyone to be together in a car for four hours, you also have to spend some time eating together. It’s physical, outdoors and fun. If there was a way to do it so that it was free it would be even better.

For my family skiing is a big part of winter. Two years ago, we got in over 15 days of skiing in. Last year, the snow was sparse so we got less than ten. I think this year it could be better.

Everybody has skis now and almost everyone has season passes. The snow is four hours away and the car is almost ready. The main problem with the car is that the chains for it cost $600. It’s four wheel drive so we probably won’t need them. But still, if we do need them and don’t have them it’s a nice big ticket from the CHP.


Dec 08

Obsession, Skateboards and Youth Sports

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

pic of youth skateboarders

Skateboarding is helping my son gain self confidence.

So my seven year old son has discovered skateboarding. After his first trip with his big cousin to a skatepark in Nashville, he has become obsessed.

Everything is skateboards. He wants to carry it with him to school. He brings it to restaurants. He looks at it. He spins the wheels. He stands on it in the house and does wheelies. He watches Youtube instructional videos. Some are even pretty good.

This is the first time I’ve seen him so obsessed with a sport. He’s been obsessed with getting toys and with a few toys. Beyblades have been covered more than a few hundred times.

Yet the skateboarding seems to have stuck.

I like it because it’s physical and develops his balance. I have one too, so its something we might be able to do together. I don’t think I’ll be doing Ollie’s or skateboard parks but I like my longboard and will be doing some stand-up paddling next year.

Kids who get obsessed with something tend to get good at it. Very good.

I hope he stays obsessed with it, at least for a while. It gets him outside and is physical. Perhaps more importantly, it seems to have taken him out of his shell a little. He’s made some new friends and has had to talk and interact with strangers.

I’ll keep you informed as to how he does.

Dec 07

Adapted PE for Students with Autism

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Pic of och bucket

This is one of the best tools I have for A.PE. I use it to carry stuff, be a basket and even a step.

One of the groups of students that I find very challenging are the kids that have autism. As a rule they don’t pay attention to balls, targets, other students or teachers. It can be very difficult to reach them.

Most of the students I see are non-communicative. They do have receptive language. This means they can understand you to some degree. But they have very little or no expressive language. If they want something or don’t want to do something they have no way to tell you.

It gets very frustrating for them. Some of them scream, cry, throw tantrums and run away. As you can imagine it gets frustrating for the teachers and parents as well.

I work with one group of third to fifth graders who various degrees of autism. They also have obsessive compulsive behaviors as well (O.C.D.). When working with these kids, I try to have a similar class every day and then add activities to the previous one.

Today, I tried something a bit different. Today we took one activity and then modified the same activity each time. Here were the activities:

1. Run around a cone. We use cones all the time to give us a border. They typically don’t run but the will walk. Twenty percent of the class is 100% independent and the remainder need some sort of hand-over-hand prompting.

2. The second step was to run around the cone and then drop a ball onto a target. We’ve used the target before but never have we had to move to the target.

3. The third step was drop a ball onto a target but to do it in a group. We had groups of three go at one time.

4. The fourth and final step was to carry a 2lb medicine ball and drop it into a bucket. They’ve done the bucket drop before and had to walk but never as far as this time. The bucket was about 10 yards away from where they were seated.

I thought it went very well. I was particularly impressed with the groups. They managed to do it without running away and only one student required hand-over-hand. Everybody else was independent.

So other APE teachers…what do you do with your students with autism?

Dec 07

Lincoln and What You Can Learn About Coaching Kids

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Pic of A.Lincoln

You don’t have to be Abe to tell stories.

Last night, I went with my son to see Lincoln, the new Speilberg movie. It was excellent and I highly recommend it. In it, it showed something that relates to working with kids (and adults for that matter).

The movie covers Lincoln’s method of pushing forward the 13th amendment in the House of Representatives which is the one that frees the slaves. As you can image it was a very cantankerous time. The civil war had been going on for four years and a lot of Representatives had many reasons for not wanting to free the slaves. To pass, the bill had to have a 2/3’s majority so you can imagine how hard that would be to get.

One of Lincoln’s methods for persuading people to come to his side was to tell stories. He would tell a story with a metaphor. You could see the actors faces as they got tranced into the story. And then you realized that you were getting hypnotized by the story as well.

Telling a story works great for getting your point across. I think for a few reasons…

1. It non-threatening. If you tell someone to do something, there is an inherent threat or command. By telling a story, the threat is reduced or even eliminated.

2. It is easy to put yourself into the story. When you hear the story, you can imagine that you are there. You have already made the change or action that is required.

3. The story can evoke all the senses. The story can become a lifelike movie in the listeners head. This makes it even more real and easy to start to believe in.

When I have done the best job with my athletes it has always come from a story. When I’ve resorted to the easy and quick method “do what I say or else”, I don’t get the same response. S

Kids love stories and using their imagination.

Try some stories with your kids or team and see how it works.

Dec 06

Adaptive PE Playground Equipment and Design

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

pic of playground equipment for wheelchairs

I’ve never seen this but it’s a great idea!

When I take my students out, I try to use as much of the natural environment as possible. We go up and down curbs, use any incline, find transitions from one terrain to another and basically look for as many things as possible to go over, under and through.

We like to use playground equipment (slides, swings, etc.) but if they are in middle school there typically isn’t any playground equipment for them. Yet even at the high school level the challenges of playground equipment is appropriate for them.

I’ve been thinking recently of how I would design a “locomotor/gross motor” playground for my students. It wouldn’t take up much space and it should be pretty inexpensive to build.

Here are somethings I would like to have:

  • Transitions from soft foam to the fake grass terrain.
  • Steps with hand rails…and without them.
  • Some sort of stationary foot pedal and an arm pedal device that are a lower height for kids in wheelchairs.
  • Bars for kids to practice bending down and to go under. Also, pipes for the kids to crawl through.
  • Stepping stones for kids to practice extending out for longer steps.
  • Variety of balance beams. Railroad ties at different heights, some with steps, different widths and separation between them.
  • Moving things like bridges, bouncy platforms.
  • More wheelchair access (might require a different playground).
  • A shade structure to keep it cool and comfortable in the summer.

I’ll be able to add to the list but this is a good start.

What do you think? What would you like to have as your ideal playground park?

Dec 06

Good Rainy Day PE Class…Bad Rainy Day PE Class

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

pic of dodgeball player

The movie had some funny scenes…but dodgeball is not for PE classes.

As an itinerant Adapted Physical Education teacher I get to go to a lot of schools. I get to see some great teaching…and some not so great teaching.

Yesterday was raining in the Bay Area. Actually, it’s been raining a lot. Which is good for the drought but not so good for outdoor PE classes. I went to two schools during the day.

The first school put the kids in the gym and had them play dodge ball. About 120 kids, separated by boys and girls. Boys played boys, girls played girls. About 40 kids on each side.

Of the 40 maybe half were actively involved on each team. The others were in the back talking and just making sure that they didn’t get conked in the head with a ball. The kids who were playing the game tending to be pretty good athletes. The ones in the back really couldn’t care less.

At the good school, the numbers of kids was about the same. In this class they broke them up into six different circuits;

There was music and for the most part all the kids were actively engaged.  Sure a few kids weren’t trying very hard at some of the stations but it was only a few. Good athletes were working with weaker ones and it was coed.

It was nice to see some good physical education teaching going on. I spoke to the teacher and she said after 20 years of teaching PE she has never once played dodge ball.


Dec 05

Exercise and the Brain for Teachers: Part 1

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

pic of brain lifting dumbells

Kids fitness, movement and exercise are needed for a healthy brain.

In Spark, author John Ratey gives a compelling argument about how important movement is for our brain. For kids who are growing and developing every cell in their bodies, I think it is the most important.

Think back to when you were in school. How long could you sit and concentrate for? Could you do it for a full 50 minute class? How about 90 minutes?

I couldn’t…and still can’t. I find that about 20 minutes is all I’m good for. Then my feet start tapping, my eyes start wandering, and my brain goes with it.

If I can get up and move for five to ten minutes, I’m able to come back and focus again.

If not, I’m pretty much lost except for brief periods of concentration that last about 30 seconds.

If you’re a teacher looking for quick activities to do with your classroom to help them focus and learn, then this will be a great series for you to follow.

I’m going to take the best of movement and education information and apply is so that you’ll have lots and lots of easy ways to help your kids learn. They will behave better, learn faster and even become fitter.

I’ll include links, exercises, games and even educational games that can take as little as 20 seconds to as long as 2 minutes. Not too long. But it will help your kids…guaranteed!

Dec 05

Beginning Jump Rope Skill Progression for 5 to 9 year olds

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

pic of girl jumping rope

We have not mastered the rope over the head part.

I’m working with a student who has an IEP goal of jumping rope. It’s to be able to do it 20 times forward and backwards. It should be pretty simple.

But like most things with kids, when you think they are at one place you quickly find out that they are further back than you expected.

He doesn’t have a lot of core strength and is lacking in coordination. I think he’s pretty typical for a third grader. And so when he jumps he has a very difficult time keeping his feet and knees together.

He prefers to hop over the rope one leg at a time as opposed to jumping with both feet at the same time. He also like to jump very high and far. So quickly, like a kernel of popcorn he’s either a mile away from the rope so discombobulated that he can’t make the jump.

Here is the progression and some verbal cues I’m using to help him.

  1. Jumping without a rope on a line on the playground. Feet together. We are going for 20 jumps (haven’t made it yet).
  2. Same thing but going over the line forward/backward and side to side.
  3. I’m adding the rope so that he has to jump a little bit higher and is aware that he can’t hit the rope.

    In steps 1 and 2 he continues even if he makes a mistake. In step 3 I’ve been stopping the exercise if he its the rope.

  4. The next step is a regression back to step 1. Here he is working on “big jump, little jump”.  This is difficult for him but he likes the singing part.
  5. Now we work on swinging the rope gently from side to side. I have it barely off the ground. One end is tied to a fence and I am doing the swinging.

This progression is going to take a while to master. We do each of the steps every day because I think he needs the conditioning effects of a lot of repetitions. By making changes the progressions become modalities and keeps him interested.

Jumping over the swinging rope is important because he must get used to the timing of the rope as well as the benefits of tracking it with his eyes.

We’ve been doing this once a week for about a month. He is improving but definitely has not mastered it. The best we’ve gotten is 8 jumps over the swinging rope.

I’m sure he’ll get there.

Dec 05

Three Tough Push-up Variations for Youth Athletes

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

picture of baby doing a push-up

Hup One, Hup Two!

Most of my focus as a blogger and coach is on less than elite athletes. There is a ton of information out there on top level competitive athletes. I see a huge need for kids that aren’t elite…maybe even in the lower half of fitness.

All kids need to have good workouts and fitness programs. They need to be challenging and variable. And sometimes they need to push each kid to be better.

There’s something to be said for having fun and play. On the other hand, we shouldn’t pander to our kids or athletes either. So with that in mind, I’m presenting three variations of push-ups that are difficult.

Most kids have a hard time doing one correct push-up but don’t let that stop you from trying these variations with them. They will appreciate the challenge.

Here is the article and video I got them from. Martin Rooney has a lot of creative ideas on working out and fitness. I high recommend you check him out at his site here. Or purchase his books at Amazon.

The three variations are:

1. Side to side push-ups. Drop down towards the left side, then raise up. Repeat towards the left. These are a good transition to help with doing one arm push-ups.

2. Dive Bombers. In the top position, move forward as far as you can. Then drop down and push your self back. These work your shoulders as well as your back and hips.

3. ISO push-ups. You drop down to one side and instead of rising up, scoot over to the other side. Go back and forth a few times from side to side,then rise up.

You might find it easier to have your athletes spread their legs spread wider for balance as well as to make it easier.

In a PE class, the kids will appreciate the challenges of trying these. They will appreciate the change of pace as well. Try them and let me know what you think.