I Can Do It! A Strategic Physical Activity Program for Students With Disabilities

Did you know that approximately 7 million of the 50 million youth that attend public schools are students with disabilities? As we continue to deliver quality physical education programs nationwide, we need to ask ourselves, “Are we doing enough in our overall physical education programs to provide access, opportunity, and equity to ensure that ALL students can achieve 60 minutes of physical activity in the school environment?”

If you’re meeting that recommendation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition, kudos to you!  If not, let me introduce the I Can Do It! program, released through HHS (Administration for Community Living) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education.

I Can Do It! (ICDI) is a voluntary, evidence-based program that is easy to implement, free, and packed with benefits to not only students, but to the overall school environment. This school-based physical activity program is designed to provide access, facilitate, and encourage opportunities for students with disabilities to be physically active for 60 minutes a day.

This can be accomplished by accumulating the 60 minutes a day through physical education, adapted physical education, recess, classroom physical activity breaks, active transport to and from school, and extracurricular activities, including a variety of club and sport activities.

Program Details

ICDI works to achieve its objectives through the program’s three core tenets:

  • Mentoring: School site personnel guide students through physical education, physical activity, sports opportunities, and healthy eating habits.
  • Goal Setting: School site personnel work with students on setting weekly, grading period, or semester goals.
  • Recognition: After completing the program for a minimum of eight weeks, students earn a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+).

The ICDI program is offered in eight-week intervals throughout the school year, but the program can begin at any time. Ideally, the program is conducted all year long, culminating with an end-of-year awards ceremony/celebration.

We know that healthy and fit students are better learners who are more likely to thrive in school and in life. Studies on the health and fitness of children and youth with disabilities show that many do not get enough exercise or have healthy eating habits.

For this reason, we are hopeful that every school district across the U.S. will offer the program to all students with disabilities in all schools.

Program Expansion

Teachers and representatives from school districts and state departments of education from our first eight states — Arizona, District of Columbia, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin — rolled out the program during the 2018-2019 school year.

I encourage you to join your colleagues in implementing the I Can Do It! program in your states and school districts in year two as we add an additional 20 states.

Become part of the expansive team as we plan our next spring roundtable meeting to showcase the program and student accomplishments. Although there is never a “one size fits all” for any state or school district implementing a program, the ICDI program manual and other resources can help you get started.

You can also contact me for additional program information. Hope to hear from you!

Additional Resources:

Jayne Greenberg

Jayne D. Greenberg, Ed.D., is presently a program manager for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services overseeing the I Can Do It! program. Previously, she served as the district director of physical education and health literacy for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. In 2019, she co-authored the textbook Organization and Administration of Physical Education: Theory and Practice and was inducted into the SHAPE America Hall of Fame.