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Adapting Equipment With SENSE

This is an excerpt from Physical Education for Children With Moderate to Severe Disabilities by Michelle Grenier & Lauren J. Lieberman.

Adapting equipment is a daily practice for physical educators teaching students with disabilities. Adapted equipment must contribute to the student’s learning. To assess the value of an activity, ask the question, "Does it make SENSE?" This acronym stands for the following essential characteristics of a worthwhile activity:

  • Safe: Does the activity and the equipment allow for safe participation? When creating or adapting equipment, consider the safety of the user and those in the vicinity.
  • Educational: Is the activity contributing to the attainment of the student’s goals, as noted on the student’s IEP. Does it align with SHAPE America’s National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 physical education? Avoid using equipment simply because it is suitable for the student. It must contribute to the attainment of the student’s goals or standards.
  • Number of practice trials: Does the activity and the equipment provide the student with maximal practice trials? Having a sufficient number of equipment pieces can contribute to this. Equipment can also reduce wait time, as discussed later in the chapter (e.g., reducing the time spent retrieving struck or thrown balls).
  • Success: Does the equipment allow for success in the majority of the student’s trials? Later in the chapter we discuss ways to adapt equipment to increase success.
  • Enjoyment: Is the student enjoying using the equipment? Does the equipment result in positive interactions with fellow classmates? Enjoyment increases the likelihood of transfer of skills to settings outside of physical education.


When observing a student using equipment in a physical education class, or when planning an activity, ask yourself, "Does it make SENSE?" If it fails to meet one of the criteria in this acronym, perhaps you can improve it.

Learn more about Physical Education for Children With Moderate to Severe Disabilities.