Heart Rate Monitor’s Changing Colors Teach Cognitively Impaired Students When Exercise is Necessary
A Michigan Adaptive PE administrator’s use of heart rate monitors enables students to manage their health and wellness even if they don’t understand how heart rate impacts their physical fitness.
“I’m interested in teaching our students who are cognitively impaired how to self-regulate,” said Ann Arbor Schools Adaptive PE Teacher Consultant Deak Swearingen.
Using IHT ZONE heart rate monitors, Ann Arbor’s Adaptive PE population, including those with severe cognitive impairments and health difficulties, took important steps including:
- Predicting and avoiding an episode based on heart rate change; and
- Managing heart rate through exercise.
In Ann Arbor’s first year using the heart rate monitors, Swearingen saw several examples of Adaptive PE students taking charge of their own health by reacting to their wrist-based heart rate monitors. While most don’t understand their actual heart rate, they notice when the monitors change color as the student’s heart rate changes.
Connecting Adaptive PE Students to Heart Rate Health Management
Swearingen recalled one of his Adaptive PE students who learned to use the monitor as a predictor to a potential episode by watching the color on the ZONE. If the color on the heart rate monitor didn’t match the student’s activity level – for instance the monitor changes to yellow or red (indicating and elevated heart rate) while the student is at rest – she knew a health or behavioral episode may be imminent.
“This student has learned when she senses her anxiety begin to spike, she would actually ask me to go out on the track instead of being in the fitness center,” Swearingen recalled. “She would walk a lap to cool down to self-regulate so she doesn’t have a meltdown and hurt anyone or herself. And she would come back when her heart rate zone got lower. She was able to comprehend that. I’m extremely excited because she made that connection.”
Another student who exercises minimally noticed her heart rate monitor change from blue (resting) to red (vigorous) and learned to stave off potential episodes by going to the track to jog.
“She was a non-diploma track student who doesn’t like to run,” Swearingen said. “She would ask me to go for a run around the indoor track because she could see her heart rate monitor elevate to red.”
Teachers Use PE Heart Rate Monitors to Improve Student Care
Swearingen works with Adaptive PE teachers and teacher aides at 14 different campuses. Educating his students how they can use the monitors remains key to his goal, but another key is making sure all of the teachers understand how the monitors work as well. He works closely with teachers at each school and can see the heart rate data that comes from each student with the Spirit System software.
“The thing that is most crucial for me, I can’t be in 14 schools at once, but I can check the system and see how each student did on a given day, and that’s huge,” he said. “Realizing and consulting with the teachers I work with, we are a providing better quality of service and also a safer service for those students.”
Swearingen and his staff set up student health profiles in the Spirit System and then give students the same ZONE heart rate monitor each class. Swearingen knows that if the student’s profile is set up correctly in the system, some have shown the ability to comprehend and adapt their behavior based on their heart rate level, leading to positive results.
“That’s transcending right there,” he said. “Instead of you having to restrain the student, to escalate, now, all of a sudden she had a good day because she was able to keep it together.”