Measurement Challenges for Children with Physical and Mental Disabilities

This is an excerpt from Measurement and Evaluation in Human Performance-5th Edition by James R. Morrow Jr.,Dale P. Mood,James G. DischM & insoo Kang.

Special Children


One of the biggest measurement challenges that you may confront as a professional in human performance is the assessment of physical fitness in children with physical or mental disabilities. Keep in mind that the fitness test batteries discussed in this chapter would exclude or be biased against many children with physical disabilities (i.e., those having physical or organic limitations, such as cerebral palsy) and children with mental disabilities (i.e., those with mental or psychological limitations, such as autism) because of their specific disabilities. Before you can administer or evaluate fitness test results, you must consider the participants’ physical and organic limitations; neural and emotional capacity; interfering reflexes; and acquisition of prerequisite functions, responses, and abilities (Seaman and DePauw 1989). You can develop the basic knowledge and competence that you need for assessing the fitness and activity of children with disabilities from your instruction and learning experiences in adapted physical education, that is, physical education adjusted to accommodate children with physical or mental limitations. The physical fitness tests selected should be appropriate for an individual student based on his or her disability as well as on the fitness capacity to be measured. Seaman and DePauw (1989) and Winnick and Short (1999) are excellent sources for detailed information on fitness assessment of special children.


The Brockport Physical Fitness Test (Winnick and Short 1999), a health-related physical fitness test for youths aged 10 through 17 with various disabilities, was developed through a research study, Project Target, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The test battery includes criterion-referenced standards for 25 tests. The test manual helps professionals consider each student’s disability and select the most appropriate test and test protocol. The test comes with Fitness Challenge software to help professionals administer the test and develop a database. Table 10.9 provides potential items for fitness assessment, the appropriate population with disabilities for the test, and reliability and validity comments for each test. The complete test kit includes a manual, software, a demonstration video, and a fitness training guide.

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