Students enrolled in the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Public Schools Adaptive Physical Education program use wrist-based heart rate monitors to address heart-rate triggered health episodes before they happen.
In 2017, Ann Arbor Public Schools Adaptive Physical Education Teacher Consultant Deak Swearingen purchased the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitor and IHT Spirit System assessment software for his department. Students wear the heart rate monitors throughout the day, and Swearingen uses the software to view reports from the district’s 14 schools.
Swearingen’s encouraged by what the system’s enabled both he and his teachers to do for the district’s adaptive PE population.
“We can see if what we are doing, the services we are providing is working,” he said. “The first year we used these monitors, we had them on 30 students. The next year, it was 120. That is what I would like to call progress.”
Giving Students a Voice in Their Health Management
Swearingen knows his use of the ZONE monitor is non-traditional. For the majority of Spirit System and ZONE users, students wear the monitors during their PE classes. The combination of the monitors and assessment software allow students and teachers to:
- Gauge their effort according to the goals the teacher has set for the day;
- Monitor that effort by comparing their perceived effort with the display on their wrist; and
- Receive by email individual reports showing heart rate throughout the session and total minutes spent exercising in each heart rate zone.
While the goal remains the same – to personalize each student’s PE workout to their individual heart rate – Swearingen takes that personalization one step further.
“It allows you really to individualize learning, individualize instruction, and that’s the focal point of adaptive PE,” he explained.
A number of Swearingen’s students are non-verbal, so predicting health-related behavioral issues can be challenging. For staff members such as graduate student-teachers who are still earning their certifications and learning exactly how to identify potential issues, the monitors prove extremely helpful.
“Can we [identify potential issues] if we don’t have people who are highly qualified and understand what to look for?” Swearingen said. “But, if they are wearing a heart rate monitor, we can quantify that by their heart rate. The heart rate monitor is going to tell the truth. Even if the student can’t articulate it, that’s okay. The data will speak for itself.”
Teaching Adaptive PE Students to Develop Wellness Management Skills
Swearingen’s also seen students who can’t comprehend heart rate use the monitors to begin to self-manage their own behavior. One student with potentially severe behavioral issues saw her heart rate monitor change from blue (resting heart rate) to red (indicating vigorous activity) and correlated that to a spike in anxiety. She approached Swearingen and asked if she could step away from the group and walk laps around the track until she calmed down.
“She doesn’t have the ability to understand 110 beats per minute, but if I program the ZONE monitor appropriately, she understands it going from red to yellow to blue and she can come back to class,” Swearingen said. “That’s transcending right there. 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.”
Helping his students have more good days – and good days once they leave the school system – will always be Swearingen’s chief concern. The ZONE monitors, he is confident, will help him accomplish that mission.
“Some of our students have some severe health conditions,” he said. “Realizing what those concerns are and consulting with the teachers I work with, we are providing a better quality of service and also a safer service.”
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