Milton H. Pettit

Since the Cypress Orthopedic School in Ontario, California, introduced archery to its students, the sport has been accepted enthusiastically by all who have participated.

We believe that a well-rounded physical education curriculum for the handicapped must include both team and individual sports. Educators frequently speak of the importance of "normal" students achieving proficiencies in a number of individual activities. Would not this goal then be even more important for those with a physical handicap? We believe that the answer is a very-definite "yes." We have found that our students truly enjoy archery and relish the success they achieve through their own individual efforts. It is hoped that archery will have carry-over value into later life, thus achieving an extremely important objective of the individualized physical education programs now being offered to the orthopaedically handicapped child.

As is the case in all activities, some individuals have excellent skills while others have limited ability. The act of putting the nock onto the bowstring involves both visual and fine motor coordination. Thus the child engaged in archery is developing and practicing those coordination skills while at the same time enjoying a sports activity. This sport helps the child to focus visually on a particular point and make the necessary adjustments in order to get the arrow properly placed on the bowstring.


Before a child begins to shoot he is given instructions and a demonstration concerning safety procedures. We want to be sure that each child clearly understands the precautions that must be observed when participating in an archery program.

Instruction Individualized

As much as is possible, the archery program is individualized to meet the needs of each child's specific physical handicap. The physical education instructor usually works with a group of not more than three participating students (Fig. 1 ). Usually two of these students can function somewhat independently but one will need a one-to-one ratio with the instructor to achieve any degree of success (Fig. 2 ). This arrangement allows for very close supervision and skill instruction. Other activities are going on simultaneously under the direction of another instructor. By rotating students the archery instructor can work with between 10 and 15 youngsters during each half-hour physical education period.

Each archer is started about six feet away from a three-foot target. Usually this means that the child will have initial success in at least hitting the target. As an individual becomes more highly skilled through practice, he or she is moved farther away. We want each child to feel that he is being challenged to the limit of his potential to achieve success. Those children with lesser ability will naturally stay closer to the target.

Individual instruction varies greatly with the type of orthopaedic handicap the child has. For example, for a child with muscular dystrophy the instructor will hold the bow. The child must learn how to place the arrow properly, pull back the bowstring, and release it. The instructor can help a great deal in aiming the arrow toward the target (Fig. 3 ). We like to see the child, regardless of his handicap, do as much for himself as possible (Fig. 4 ). When a child is successful in firing an arrow into the target, his joy is very evident and his success maintains his interest in the sport. During the shooting, we stress and praise what a child can do and ignore those deficiencies in skill which are a result of a particular handicap. For individuals who have the use of only one side of their body, the technique of having the instructor hold the bow can be applied effectively. We have some excellent archers who have a fine pull and release with one hand and arm, but are unable to hold the bow in their left hand because of paralysis or some other disability.

All Basic Archery Skills Taught

As much as possible, all of the basic archery skills are taught (Fig. 5 ). We do not ask the impossible but recognize that each of the youngsters is able to accomplish with proficiency one or more of the fundamental archery skills. This is seen clearly in the athetoid child who is unable to control his body movements. In cases such as these, the instructor will hold the bow, help the child put the arrow on the string, and then aid the child to pull the bowstring back (Fig. 6 ). This is what might be called a necessary, yet companionable, duplication of two individuals, the youngster and the instructor, thinking of a desirable result and working together to attain success for the child.

There has been great interest in this program for three basic reasons:

  1. Each youngster achieves success.

  2. It is a new sport activity which is a challenge.

  3. Each child is supported by constant verbal reinforcement of a positive nature.

We plan to conduct an archery tournament which will have different categories of participants. The groupings will be determined by ability, and awards will be given to each child who participates, regardless of his or her score.

Milton H. Pettit is the Special Education Instructor Cypress Orthopedic School Ontario. California