WACO, Texas (KWTX) -- A new physical education program at Midway schools in Waco, Texas is helping general education students better understand and form closer relationships with special education students.
(Midway ISD photo)
“One of the biggest things I think for both is there is empathy,” said teacher Kyna Saul. “It’s developing that empathetic nature that is sometimes lacking in our world today.
“As they work together, they see what people go through so they’re able to kind of see the world through a different perspective which makes them have compassion for other kids,” she continued.
Saul is teaching a brand new class at Midway Middle School for seventh and eighth graders called Partner PE.
The program pairs general education students with students who have special needs during their PE period at school and allows students to enroll in a class that focuses on students with special needs, instead of choosing a traditional required physical education course such as volleyball or basketball,.
The students first spend time in the classroom time learning about the challenges of the special needs students and then keeping in mind what their abilities are, plan activities for the special needs children.
So far, 48 children are taking the course helping to bridge the relationship gap in district that has population of 8 percent of kids with special needs.
Special education teacher Elena Leon says the effects of the class could be far reaching.
“I'm excited to see that when my students in special education are seen by their peers for their abilities how that changes the peers’ attitudes towards them and through that it can change the community's attitude,” she said.
Midway Middle School Principal Dr. Herb Cox first got the idea years ago from a high school in Plano but wasn’t sure it was age appropriate for middle school.
Now that he’s seen the positive response, he wishes he had implemented it sooner.
“The partners relationship has extended outside of the PE classrooms so now during lunch some of our gen ed kids have invited their partners to come sit with them at lunch,” Cox explained. “So now, our students who for the rest of their academic careers are self-contained, not only do they have a new friend in their partner but now they sit at lunch with their five or six other friends.”
Students meanwhile are embracing the program, including a seventh grader named Leah.
“I chose to do the partner PE program because I just love seeing those types of kids just have fun and helping people. I really like doing,” she said.
The feeling was echoed by her classmate, Areyana.
“It will help me and then understand that we can all be friends,” Areyana said.