The “I’M SPECIAL” Project started in 1977 as a three year grant from the US Office of Special Education to develop instructional video tapes to prepare adaptive physical education teachers. Upon completing the three year “I’M SPECIAL” grant in 1980, Dr. Louis Bowers and Dr. Stephen Klesius needed a mechanism through which to distribute the series of 15 videotapes, which were created as a result of the project, to be used by universities and school systems in the development of physical education programs for students with disabilities. The Center for the Study of Play merged with the “I’M SPECIAL” project and became the Center for the Study of Physical Education and Sport for Persons with Disabilities.
With further funding from the U.S. Office of Special Education, and organizations dedicated to creating opportunities for the developmentally and mentally disabled such as the Civitan Foundation, and its local chapter the North Tampa Civitan Club, the Center was able to create the “I’m Special Network.” This new entity was used to distribute free videotapes and training for state departments of education, school systems, colleges, and universities in 49 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada. A Portuguese language sound track was added to the videotapes for use in universities throughout Brazil to prepare teachers in the specialization of adapted physical education.
The U.S. Department of Defense also received training and free videotapes for its schools on military bases in the United States and around the world. Over 600 copies of the “I’M SPECIAL” videotapes and instructional materials were replicated and disseminated. Drs. Klesius and Bowers, the center’s co- directors, also developed and distributed 400 copies of the “I’M SPECIAL” interactive video disc instructional materials and 2,000 copies of the “Physical Activity for All” digital video disc. Bill Price, the center’s coordinator, also developed five booklets and distributed over 2,000 free copies on the construction of adapted play equipment and fitness exercise equipment for persons with disabilities.
With the retirements of Dr. Bowers, Dr. Klesius, and Mr. Price, the Center for the Study of Physical Education and Sports for Persons with Disabilities was disbanded.