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Specially Designed Physical Education

The term “specially designed physical education” is special education (specially designed instruction) as specified in the student’s IEP, and may occur during the regular physical education class if that is the least restrictive environment for the student. It is recognized that students with disabilities benefit from appropriate physical education programming, specifically one that will meet the individual child’s diverse needs.

What the Laws Say Regarding Specially Designed Physical Education

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that students with disabilities receive physical education services, specially designed if necessary, and must be made available to every student with a disability receiving FAPE. If specially designed physical education is prescribed in a student's Individual Education Program (IEP), the school district responsible for the education of that student must provide the services directly or make arrangements for those services to be provided through other public or private programs.

34 CFR 300.39
34 CFR 300.108

License Requirements

In Wisconsin, any licensed (530) physical education teacher may legally teach students with disabilities in regular physical education programs, including providing services for adapted physical education (APE) and specially designed physical education (SDPE). However, if a district seeks to receive payment for physical education teacher salaries from state categorical or federal special education funds, the teacher must also have the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “Adaptive Physical Education” 860 license.

Resources for Specially Designed Physical Education/Adapted Physical Education

Wisconsin DPI Update Information Bulletin 10-04: Physical Education for Children with Disabilities


University of Wisconsin La Crosse, Center on Disability Health and Adapted Physical Education


School and Success Prevention and Wellness Team on Physical Education: Wisconsin Physical Education & Physical Activity


Links to OSEP Letters

Early Childhood Special Education.  When physical education is not offered to children without disabilities, ages 3 to 5, specially designed physical education must still be provided to those students who have unique needs requiring physical education and have IEPs that include specially designed physical education as part of the student’s special education services. This requirement is clarified in a policy letter from the U.S. DOE Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Letter to Tymeson, July 31, 2013, at

High school special education transition services. OSEP has also provided a policy letter that clarifies the importance of providing physical education for students with disabilities during the high school transition age. Letter to Luke E. Kelly, Oct 23, 2013, at