Adaptive Physical Education

Matt LaCortiglia presents a FAIER planning model to develop physical activities for individuals with disabilities.

Matt LaCortiglia, Adaptive Physical Education Teacher at Perkins School for the Blind, presents a FAIER planning model to develop physical activities for individuals with disabilities. FAIER is an abbreviation for Foundation, Awareness, Implementation, Evaluation, and Refinement.

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Presented by Matt LaCortiglia



  1. Introduction
  2. Phase One: Foundation
  3. Phase Two: Awareness
  4. Phase Three: Implementation
  5. Phase Four: Evaluation
  6. Phase Five: Refinement

CHAPTER 1: Introduction to the FAIER (Foundation, Awareness, Implementation, Evaluate, Refinement) Model

LaCortiglia: Hi, my name is Matt LaCortiglia, and I’m an adaptive physical education teacher here at the Perkins School for the Blind. And today I’m going to be presenting a planning model to develop or create physical activities for individuals with disabilities.

First I’d like to give you a little bit of background information on how I developed this model. And I oftentimes get asked the question “What physical activities can my son, my daughter, my student or client do to participate in?” And without really knowing the individual or without really asking a lot of questions about the individual, it’s difficult to just give different physical activities for them without knowing that it’s going to be the best activities suited for that individual.

So I realized two things — one, that there was a need for people to know how to create or identify different physical activities. And so what I decided to do, the second thing, was to put down on paper my thought process that I go through in creating different physical activities for individuals with disabilities. And what came out of that is this FAIER model.

The FAIER model is a system to organize information in a way that you can design activities, and the model is comprised of five phases: foundation, awareness, implementation, evaluation, and refinement. Some characteristics of the FAIER model is that it is a process and it is not a curriculum. It is only one aspect of what an adaptive physical education teacher does.

It is designed to organize information in a way to stimulate a creative thought process, and it can be utilized in multiple settings by multiple disciplines. The theory behind the model is self-efficacy or increasing self-confidence through successful task completion. And what we want to do is set small, achievable goals so that the individuals can meet those goals and then increase the demands.

Because the important thing is we want the student or individual to come back to the activity. Once the student gains some confidence in the activity, they’ll hopefully come back to it. Because a lot of times, the first time you do an activity, you’re not very good at it, you don’t like it, and you don’t really want to come back to it. So the whole idea is to get the individual to be successful and then come back to the activity. So now we’ll take a closer look at the model, and on this slide, you’ll see a visual of the model.

The first two phases of the model is the gathering information phases of the model. The foundation phase consists of goals, strengths, capabilities, preferences, and available resources. The second phase, awareness, which is really a support phase, involves accommodations, specially designed instructions, and things that you medically need to be aware of.

So the foundation phase is really what you’re going to look at to start building or identifying what the physical activity is going to be. You’re going to take what the student likes, what the student is good at, what the student can do, and that’s going to be your building block to start the activity, and you’re going to combine that with what you have available, what resources do you have available.

The awareness phase can be looked at as the supporting phase. These are things that we’re going to need to have in place to support the activity. In phase three, the implementation is where you actually construct or design the activity.

Phase four is where you’re going to evaluate the activity, and you’re going to really evaluate it in three areas: for safety, task completion, and individual response. Based on your findings from the evaluation, you’re going to make changes. You’re either going to progress or withdraw things or add things in, and that’s the refinement phase.

Then the other thing that’s very important is then we’re going to re-go through the whole phase again — so go through back to the foundation, start identifying other strengths, capabilities that the student will do.

Because what happens is while you’re evaluating, while the participation is going on and you’re watching, you’re going to pick up things that you didn’t know about the individual, and now maybe you can use them. So it should be done every time you do the activity. So it starts off like a snowball, and it keeps rolling into a bigger snowball, until you get a snowman.

So eventually, you don’t know the individual that well, but by using this model, you’re going to gain more information, and before you know it, you’ll be coming up with a whole list of different physical activities that the individual or group can do.

Now I’m going to quickly go through the procedure that you would use the model.

The first thing you want to do: determine the number of individuals that you have that you want to design the activity for. It could be for one, two, or a group.

The second thing you want to do is identify the goal of the activity for that individual or for the group. Then you want to go through and list or identify the different strengths, capabilities, and resources that you have available. Then you’re going to go through and list and identify the different accommodations, especially design instruction and things that you medically need to be aware of.

After that, the next steps include evaluating the activity and then making changes based on the evaluation. And I do have worksheets that will be available as part of a text and video, Run! Play! Move!, which will be available soon on the Perkins Web site.

CHAPTER 2: FAIER Model – Phase One: Foundation

LaCortiglia: Now we’re going to take a closer look at each phase of the model. The first phase, foundation  —  and this includes goals, preferences, strengths, capabilities, and resources.

Activity goal is the purpose or benefit of participation for the individual or the group. The goal of the activity really should lead toward a longer-term goal, and the longer-term goal really should be function: what do we eventually see the student or group of students doing at the end, long term?

The three students are performing a warm-up exercise, standing in a circle raising a hula hoop high above their heads and lowering it again. The activity goal is to complete this exercise with one or two peers, and minimal assistance. Here is another warm-up exercise, and the activity goal here is the same goal, for them to complete a warm-up activity with with a peer with independence.

The long-term goal for these students is for them to learn many warm-up routines until it’s part of a routine so that in the future, when they graduate, they can have a routine that they can do in their home without a lot of equipment and something that they can do fairly independently.

So the activity goal for this particular two video clips is to, first, get them to do one or two with a high independence level, and then eventually, we’re going to add more and more so that they can do a whole routine. Activity goal characteristics — activity goal influences the design and construction of the activity. It’s determined prior to design and construction of the activity but may be changed during the refinement phase. It provides support to break down a game or sport.

Along with strengths, capabilities, and preferences, form the foundation of the model. It is determined by the activity creator, but it is always based on some aspect of the individual, and that is to be important. Remember, what the activity goal is, it should be always something based on some aspect of the individual or the group. So the tendency is to get real creative and do lots of adaptations and modifications and real fancy exercises, but you have to stop and think, “Wait a second; what is the benefit? What are we trying to achieve here with the student or with the group of students?”

Strengths, capabilities, and preferences — just some definitions for you. Strength — any capability at which the individual excels. And capability — any trait, skill, or ability that the individual or the group possesses that can be utilized in designing or creating an activity. Preferences are any object or thing that the individual likes and prefers that you can incorporate into the activity. Available resources — any person, object, or source of information that could be utilized to aid in the successful participation in the activity. And available resources can really be looked at in two ways: one, the smaller, more immediate resources that you have available.

Things we have available in this room right now we can make some activities out of, some physical activities. And I think that’s important, because sometimes you don’t have a lot of things around you, but we take for granted what we do have around us. And it’s important to go through and really look at what we have available to us first, instead of worrying about what we don’t have, and how can we use it and can we use it in a safe manner. The second way we look at resources is bigger resources.

For example, some community resources or things that we can access online, different organizations, different people, different books, or even people to talk to and so forth. So that’s a much bigger way to look at the resources. In this video clip, we’re utilizing a community resource, a local fitness center. And the student is utilizing a strength machine, abdominal crunch, which is a difficult area for him to work on. This machine allows him to do it independently.

The second video clip is a seated row machine, which is working his scapula region, which is a hard area for him to work and strengthen. And using this machine, you can see, he’s able to do it pretty independently.

CHAPTER 3: FAIER Model – Phase Two: Awareness

LaCortiglia: Phase two, awareness, refers to aspects of the individual of which you need to be aware but is not the central focus of the activity. And it usually relates to the successful participation of the activity.

Some concepts within this phase include accommodations, specially designed instruction, and medical awareness. Accommodations have a focus on individuals’ disability. They are not created. It impacts the successful completion of tasks, are usually needed for participation, and are usually used in other settings. Accommodation is usually a physical aid that without that aid, the student wouldn’t be able to participate in the activity — things along the line of maybe some corrective eyeglasses, a power wheelchair or a wheelchair or a walker, things of that nature.

Specially designed instruction is strategies particularly related to learning style which are based on the individual needs and maximize the opportunity for successful participation.

In this video clip, you’ll see doing tactile sign and using speech to communicate to the student what the student just did for this activity session. And that’s also a good way to close an activity sometimes, which would be another example of specially designing instruction — is going over what the student had just did as a review and a closure to that activity.

Some characteristics of specially designed instruction: it often relates to the individual’s disability; it has an impact on whether the tasks are successfully completed, often is combined with accommodations during construction, and almost always is converted into a modification during construction.

Some characteristics of specially designed instruction include it often relates to the individual’s disability. It has an impact on whether tasks are successfully completed. And to give you an example on that, if you have one or two students, and you want them to complete a certain task like a shuttle run and you’re not using the right mode of communication, they don’t understand clearly what the expectation is, and then they’re not successful at it, and they might not return to the activity. If you can catch that and say, “Wait a second; maybe they didn’t understand it,” go back and look. Maybe I’m not using the right mode of communication.

Maybe if it’s not sign language, maybe they need some support such as pictures or symbols, something of that nature. So that’s an example of our specially designed instruction, how it will affect the completion of the task. Some other characteristics include it’s often combined with accommodations during construction, and it’s almost always converted into a modification during construction.

Medical awareness — and this involves identifying any health or medical-related concerns that you need to be aware of so that you can maybe have some things in place if you need to. Some things you might need to be aware: stuff like diabetes or cardiac conditions, seizure disorders or asthma. And generally, you should have medical doctor clearance for participation in any exercise program for individuals.

CHAPTER 4: FAIER Model – Phase Three: Implementation

LaCortiglia: Phase three, implementation. Implementation is the construction of the activity based on the preliminary phases of the model, and some of the concepts include activity design, environment, and modification.

The activity design is the physical setup of the activity by combining all previous concepts within an environment. So what we want to do is we want to take the strengths of the individual, capabilities, preferences, what resources you have available, put that with any specially designed instruction or accommodations that you need, and that’s what you create the activity on. And it’s also, if you’re not creating the activity, if you want to identify or select an activity for a student to participate in, you’re going to use the same procedure here. Environment and modification.

Modification involves changing components or equipment or rules to a preexisting game. A preexisting game is any sport or game or activity that has been previously performed and has specific rules. So if need be and you need to modify or change a preexisting game, you can do so, as long as it is in line with your goal of the activity and your long-term goal and it’s based on usually some sort of specially designed instruction that is needed. Otherwise, you don’t need to modify it. If it doesn’t need to be modified, then you don’t need to modify the game.

The environment is the physical setup of the activity by combining all previous concepts within a setting. How to design the activity. Identify the strengths, capabilities, preferences, and available resources that can be utilized to meet the activity goal within an environment that includes the appropriate accommodations, modifications for success. Any questions that may arise with regards to design should be determined by previous model component, and like I said, it’s usually the goal or specially designed instruction that’s missing. Then you’re going to go and analyze to make sure that the design is safe.

CHAPTER 5: FAIER Model – Phase Four: Evaluation

LaCortiglia: Phase four, evaluation. The three areas we want to evaluate is safety, task completion, and individual response.

In this video clip, we see a student who’s using the tricep push-down, and we’re going to look for her response to see if she likes the activity, to see if it’s too difficult, if it’s too easy, how she’s doing, and we’re going to look at her body language to kind of get a read on her.

In this particular activity, she seems to like it. In this exercise, she’s doing a chest press, I’m watching, and monitoring for safety, I’m going to come in and correct her technique. You’ll see her wrists are extending back on the bar, and we want to straighten her hands out. So I’m going to come in and do a physical prompt. So this is really an example of evaluating. It’s basically monitoring the student, but I’m taking note of that.

So now, when I go back to the next phase, which would be refinement, one of the things I might do is maybe the seat adjustment wasn’t quite right on that machine, although it looked pretty good at at chest level. But maybe that’s an accommodation or a change I’m going to make. The other thing is maybe if the student keeps going into that wrist flex position, maybe we’d use some sort of brace to keep her in that mid position so she can do that exercise. That would be just two examples of identifying something within, while you’re assessing and evaluating, the activity and then making a possible change for that in the next phase, which is refinement.

CHAPTER 6: FAIER Model – Phase Five: Refinement

LaCortiglia: So phase five, refinement, involves analyzing evaluation results and determining what changes need to be made. And some of the concepts include progression and functionalizing an activity.

Progression is increasing demand or task or activity based on consistency of task completion. So during your observation, while the student’s participating in the activity, you’re going to look for signs that they’re doing it too easy. Are they getting bored? Do they look like they’re getting bored with it? That might be an indication that we need to increase the demand or change the activity.

If it seems real difficult for the student or they’re not interested in it, some other change needs to be made. So that’s what we’re constantly looking for every time an activity is going on.

Functionalizing an activity involves changing the activity or changing aspects of the activity to meet a more specific area of need, usually leading towards meeting a long-term goal. Some common areas to change and things you can do is you can incorporate academics into an activity, incorporate choice making, increase sensory input, increase areas of motor ability, moving in different directions, and things involving more coordination and balance, incorporating different fitness components.

And finally, I would just like to say that being physically active is important to all of us, and it should be an important part and aspect of everyone’s life.

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Length of time to complete: approximately 30 minutes

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