Growing up I had a condition known as reactive airway. For those unfamiliar with this term, it is essentially activity-induced asthma. Over time I did outgrow this condition but not before I noticed the exclusion of a breathing condition. I couldn’t play as hard at recess like the other kids. Often sitting on the side of the playground watching others play. Out of all the places I felt left out, P.E. was the worst.
On days when we had rigorous activities or fitness tests, my P.E. teacher would have me walk around the field or court where the other kids played. I lost track of all the times the other kids would scoff at me and say I was “lucky” that I didn’t have to do the agility test. This was probably because the only time they noticed me not playing with them is when they were doing a boring or hard activity. They never noticed all the fun activities I couldn’t join in. They were too busy having fun.
It Only Takes One
In sixth grade, we got a new P.E. teacher. She changed my opinion of P.E. and even encouraged me to try out for the basketball team. To this day I distinctly remember three specific accommodations she made that let me get in the games with my peers.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. As the name probably implies, it’s basketball with no running. I appreciated this one because Coach made it a point to let the other kids know walking basketball gave them more opportunity to practice things like ballhandling and guarding. This basketball variant caught on and I spent much of my sixth-grade year playing this version with my classmates. I gained a lot of social and interpersonal skills experience over this time.
The Longest Yard
This game was another one that caught on. The way it was played was by having everyone line up on the boundary stripe of the basketball court. Then we would walk as slowly as we could towards the half-court line. If at any point you stopped moving, you were out. Whoever got to the line last was the winner. In case you ever find yourself with a rambunctious gaggle of kids, you will be amazed at how long they can make this game last. One of our games felt like it lasted an hour. I didn’t win, but it was at least a game I could play with my peers.
My favorite game that she taught us was skip ball. It was played with an inflated rubber ball about the size of a softball. It was played on a football field with two teams. The goal was to work together as a team to get the ball into the goal zone. Here’s the catch. When you have the ball, you can’t move. So, the challenge is passing it between the players on your team to stair-step down the field. However, the opposing team can attempt to intercept the ball and they are free to move around until they have possession of the ball. My biggest motions here were catching and passing the ball. My teammates handled the running and intercepting aspects as those actions would have triggered my asthma.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
So, if you are a teacher struggling to find ways to include a child with asthma in group games. Just think of how you could slow down a game or activity. Whether it’s walking while playing basketball, or a variation of football, there are a plethora of ways to modify activities so that they don’t trigger the asthmatic in the group. Of course, we can’t forget to remind the asthmatic kiddo to bring their inhaler to any physical activity, even the modified ones. Because when everyone is included the games are more fun.