Physical Education Accommodations for Students with ADHD

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Students with ADHD generally have trouble paying attention, controlling their behavior, and following directions in school. Let's look at some accommodations that can help these kids succeed in physical education class.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Jeremy is a fourth grade student who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). His individualized education plan (IEP) team has been working together to determine what type of accommodations Jeremy needs to succeed in school. Mr. Sear, Jeremy's physical education teacher, would like to understand the types of challenges Jeremy's disorder presents and how he can help Jeremy have a safe and meaningful experience in P.E.

Physical Education and ADHD

First, let's review what ADHD is and explore some of the challenges children like Jeremy face in P.E. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the most common disability in children. It is a behavior disorder associated with hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Here are a few issues Jeremy has during physical education, which are also common among children with ADHD.

  • Jeremy has a difficult time following through with teacher directions.
  • He acts out during the first ten minutes of class, when students are required to sit for attendance and instruction.
  • He does not follow the rules when using equipment, playing games, or during warm ups.

Accommodations in P.E.

Accommodations are changes teachers make to the way a student learns new skills and concepts. Accommodations allow students with disabilities to be included in the regular classroom, and learn the same general curriculum as their typical peers. Jeremy's IEP team has come up with several accommodations for Mr. Sear to implement that create a better learning environment in P.E.


It is critical that Jeremy's school day has structure and routine. When Jeremy can rely on a predictable pattern, he is more likely to comply and do his best work. A predictable schedule helps Jeremy know what to expect, which makes it easier for him to follow teacher directions.

Mr. Sear will write out a schedule on the white board and briefly review it at the beginning of each class. The warm up will be the same exercise for the whole month, so that Jeremy and his classmates can improve their skills through repeated practice. Here is an example of Mr. Sear's schedule.

1. Attendance

2. Warm up (jog in place, 25 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups, stretching, run 5 laps)

3. Teacher demonstration

4. Individual practice

5. Partner practice

6. Group game

Visual Reminders

Jeremy has a hard time remembering all of the instructions and rules given in the first few minutes of class. Mr. Sear will start using visual reminders, placed in a location that's easy to see. At any point during class, Jeremy can look to these visuals and remember what he should and should not be doing. Here are a few examples of visual reminders.

Mr. Sear creates a rule chart that lists the rules of the gym.

1. Keep hands to yourself

2. Say kind words

3. Be respectful

4. Follow directions

Notice how these rules are stated in positive language (tell students what you want them to do, not what they shouldn't do), and are brief. 'Keep hands to yourself' is more direct than 'Do not push, hit, or tackle the other kids in gym class.'

When possible, Mr. Sear also writes the instructions on a white board for a game or an activity. This can be helpful for all students, as they refer back to the board to make sure they're on track during different activities.

Positive Reinforcement

Due to the challenges that students with ADHD present, they are constantly being redirected, told to stop, asked to pay attention, and given a lot of corrective feedback. This would cause any child to associate school with negative feelings and poor self-esteem.

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