The I Can Do It! Program (ICDI), released through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (Administration for Community Living), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, is a voluntary school-based physical activity program designed to provide access, equity, and opportunities by facilitating and fostering opportunities for students with disabilities to be physically active for 60 minutes or more a day. To meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd ed., this can be accomplished by accumulating the 60 minutes 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.
Having been part of the original development team in 2004, I had the opportunity to implement the ICDI program in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 13 years. During my last year, we had almost 1,700 students with disabilities receive the PALA+ award. I really don’t know who got more out of the program, the students with disabilities or their peers who had a greater understanding of students with disabilities. We saw friendships forged, the school climate change in a positive direction as reported by K-12 principals, and a reduction in feelings of isolation and depression on the part of students with disabilities who became a part of the total school environment. This is a win-win program with a HUGE return on investment with very little extra effort!
Since most students in the U.S., including the 7 million students with disabilities, do not have daily Physical Education, the program can be accomplished through a school wide support model. Not only does this provide physical activity opportunities for students with disabilities, but it also encourages teachers, school site staff, peer mentors, and families to also meet the 60 minutes of recommended daily activity. It has further been reported that by implementing the ICDI program, positive changes have occurred to the school environment, promoting better understanding, compassion, and the forging of friendships.
As a result of COVID-19, with students working from home through distance learning and online instruction, we launched ICDI@HOME to provide resources for parents and caregivers to keep their children active as they adjust to the new normal until we resume schooling as we knew it. ICDI further supports the CSPAP as well as the WSCC model providing many opportunities for youth with disabilities to stay active in the school environment as well as in the community and with family support.
ICDI works to achieve its objectives through the program’s three core tenets:
MENTORING: School site personnel (teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists, counselors, etc.) guide students through physical education, physical activity, and 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 5 days per week for 8 weeks, students earn their PALA+ awards (certificate). It is recommended that in the school setting the program is conducted all year long with an end of year awards celebration/ceremony.
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 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 nor 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. For additional information, please visit https://acl.gov/programs/health-wellness/icdi or to get started, please contact Dr. Jayne Greenberg, Program Director, at Jayne.Greenberg@acl.hhs.gov or 202-768-3557.