Physical education requirements for children with disabilities

Under Maine’s system of learning results, each student is required to study and achieve proficiency in the eight content areas including physical education. In addition to State requirements, federal regulations for implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) require that states follow the guidelines set forth in sections 34 CFR 300.39 and 300.108.

The State must ensure that public agencies comply with the following:

300.39 Special Education

(a) General. Special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including

(i) Instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and

(ii) Instruction in physical education;

300.108 Physical Education

(a) General. Physical education services, specially designed if necessary, must be made available to every child with a disability receiving Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), unless the public agency enrolls children without disabilities and does not provide physical education to children without disabilities in the same grades.

(b) Regular physical education. Each child with a disability must be afforded the opportunity to participate in the regular physical education program available to nondisabled children unless:

(1) The child is enrolled full time in a separate facility; or

(2) The child needs specially designed physical education, as prescribed in the child’s IEP.

(c) Special physical education. If specially designed physical education is prescribed in a child’s IEP, the public agency responsible for the education of that child must provide the services directly or make arrangements for those services to be provided through other public or private programs.

(d) Education in separate facilities. The public agency responsible for the education of a child with a disability who is enrolled in a separate facility must ensure that the child receives appropriate physical education services in compliance with this section.

Specially designed physical education is known as adapted physical education (APE). APE is a direct service and must be evaluated and provided by a certified APE specialist.  Physical and occupational therapy, which are related services, may not be a substitute for physical education or APE. When there is a concern regarding a child’s physical education program, the IEP team must include the APE and/or general physical education teacher, and a determination must be made as to whether the child requires APE or an APE evaluation. When the team determines that an APE evaluation should be conducted, it must be conducted by a certified APE specialist and will include recommendations as to the child’s APE needs and appropriate physical education placement. The IEP team will consider the results of this evaluation along with information collected from physical and occupational therapy assessments to make its determinations regarding the student’s physical education needs.

For SAUs that do not currently have a certified APE teacher, the Office of Special Services recommends that one or more individuals from that district work towards APE certification over the next several years. For more information on the APE endorsement, please contact the Department’s Office of Certification at 624-6603. If you have questions about these requirements, please contact Maine DOE’s Consultant for Children with Disabilities Jayne Chase at