Whether you loved it or found a way out of it, physical education, P.E., impacts the lives of students nationwide.
Amy Cox, a member of Oklahoma Christian University’s 1997 graduating class, has installed a unique and adaptive program for students with autism at Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, OK.
In a recent interview with the Talon, Cox discussed the inspiration and development of the program, its most rewarding aspects and how others can make an impact.
How did the Adaptive Physical Education Program at Carl Albert High School get started, and was it at all influenced by the program constructed by Oklahoma Christian’s Max Dobson?
At Carl Albert High School, we have the autism program—we got it four years ago, and we finally were able to have a class where our autism kiddos come to meet, third hour every single day. My principal let me design the program however I wanted, so I got to come up with the syllabus and pretty much tailor it to whatever I wanted to do. So, we started with two regular education students, and they came in and helped me for a semester—the next year I was able to do six. I am up to ten kiddos that help me every day. They are my physical education techs, and they help me teach these kids life skills. We play games, and it has been the best program ever—for the regular education students, the autism kiddos and even for myself.
I had a class, while I was at OC, that Max did at the barn, where he had all of Edmond schools’ special education programs, and they would come over. That was a joy. I had one little girl, while I was there, follow me while I played basketball, then I would show up to class and she would talk to me about it. It was the coolest experience. I am glad I can give back and do something like that.
What are your favorite aspects of the Adaptive PE Program, and what are its most challenging components?
The interaction, the inclusion with the regular education kids with these kiddos. They don’t always want to be around adults and a lot of the time, in that type of program, that’s what they are around all the time. So it’s been nice to see that interaction.
I have adapted. We do pool noodles instead of balls so they don’t have to chase them everywhere. They push them back and forth and hit them, and they will snake through the cones and will end up hitting them back and forth to each other all while having a partner that’s redirecting them. It’s challenging in that way, but these kids do a great job.
Do you think this adaptive program should be uniform throughout the public schooling system?
I do. I think the outcome of it, the rewards that these kids have taken away from the regular education kids being in there and then the outcome of the autism kids seeing them in the hallways and being able to interact—they have got to have social skills. It’s not only teaching them to play games, but they are getting social interaction from kids that are their age, and I would love to see that throughout all schools.
Do you think it is part of the Christian responsibility to install programs like this in other facets of life?
I do. I just think it’s sharing love, compassion and understanding—we are teaching these kids so much more than just how to play games. We teach them how to interact and high five and know their social boundaries as far as approaching somebody. When it’s appropriate to hug somebody and when it is not, we are teaching them all of these things beyond just physical activity. The regular education students do things for these kiddos, like interacting with them over holidays—they are just showing that compassion, and it’s amazing.
How can Oklahoma Christian students get involved in programs that share a similar mission as the one you conduct?
You can always get involved in the Special Olympics. Right now they are doing the winter Olympics. It’s just getting in there and helping and signing up for things like that. We had the Trick-Or-Treat City over here at the Midwest City Community Center just a couple weeks ago. It’s really about having the programs and finding them—they are out there, but not a lot of people know about it.