By Julie M. Hughes
Pedersen is passionate about adapted physical education
The opportunity to earn some extra money as a graduate student turned into a career-changing experience for Scott Pedersen, a certified adapted physical educator and assistant professor in the New Mexico State University College of Education’s Department of Human Performance, Dance and Recreation.
A former athlete, Pedersen started his career wanting to help athletes with their injuries. He earned a bachelor’s in sports medicine from High Point University and then a master’s in exercise physiology at Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville.
While working on his first master’s degree, he had the chance to work at a local community college with students with disabilities – and that inspired him.
“The look on the faces of those students with disabilities when you helped them with an activity was amazing,” Pedersen said “Their parents were always asking me how they could help their child to play games well enough to play with kids who were not disabled. It became a challenge for me to answer that question.”
The simplest solution was to play games that none of the students were familiar with, he said, but during this play he noticed that students with disabilities had a harder time with skills that required them to cross the midline of their bodies, such as bouncing a ball with your right hand over to the left side of your body.
Encouraged by his supervisor at the community college, Pedersen decided he wanted to continue helping individuals with disabilities be active, so he changed gears and headed to Indiana University, where he earned a second master’s degree in kinesiology with a focus in adapted physical education (APE) and a doctorate in human performance, also focusing on APE.
Pedersen was still interested in answering the question of how individuals with disabilities can enjoy physical activity, but determined during his doctoral research that he needed to focus on a specific disability.
“Disabilities are so varied that I needed to focus on just one,” he said. “I decided I could not solve all of the problems of helping individuals with disabilities be active, but if I could find one thing that would help that would be a step forward.”
Pedersen studied children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder because it is such a mysterious disability and diagnosing it is arbitrary. For his dissertation he studied the movements of children with and without ADHD and found that those who have been diagnosed with ADHD have much more difficulty performing tasks that cross the midline of the body.
Since joining the faculty at NMSU in 2003, Pedersen has continued to investigate the upper and lower extremity movements of children with and without ADHD to identify where processing delays may occur in the human body. He also has begun looking for interventions that are not drug-based to help children eliminate this inhibition and increase their success at physical activities.
When Pedersen arrived in New Mexico four years ago, he was one of only two people in the state certified to teach adapted physical education. Since then he has developed a minor in adapted physical education and several courses aimed at teaching the skill set needed to become nationally certified in APE.
Pedersen’s passion to provide individuals with disabilities opportunities to participate in lifetime physical activity has been the driving force behind the development of many community-based programs as well. For more information on adapted physical education, visit http://education.nmsu.edu/nmsuape/.