Difficulties with social interaction in physical education and health

Review question

In this review we would like to answer the following question: How can teaching in physical education and health be designed so that students who experience difficulties with social interaction are provided with good conditions for participation, development and learning?


Teachers need support to adapt physical education lessons so that all children and adolescents can and wish to participate. Physical education includes several elements that may be stressful. Team sports, competition, loud music and shifts between various activities are some of the factors that may influence pupil participation. For many students, a physical education lesson is a major challenge and potential source of great frustration. This can have a negative impact on the lesson or lead to an unwillingness to participate. Physical education lessons can therefore be a major challenge and a potential source of frustration, influencing the willingness to participate.

In the Swedish Institute for Educational Research’s needs inventory, teachers expressed a need for knowledge of special educational needs, particularly when teaching students with neuropsychiatric disabilities People with neuropsychiatric disabilities function differently in terms of how they process information, something that among other things can lead to difficulties in interacting socially. In learning environments, teachers also meet children with social difficulties that are often undiagnosed.

Social interaction is a significant element of the subject Physical Education and Health. When students interact with one another, they develop their mobility and ability to cooperate. This overview has been prepared in collaboration with the Swedish National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (SPSM) for providing physical education teachers with a systematic overview of studies linked to social interaction within the subject Physical Education and Health.

Project group

The project is carried out by a project team consisting of external researchers (specialists in the field) and employees at the Swedish Institute for Educational Research and the National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools.

External researchers

  • Kim Wickman, PhD, Senior lecturer, Umeå University
  • Kajsa Jerlinder, PhD, Senior lecturer, University of Gävle

From the Institute

  • Alva Appelgren, PhD, Researcher/Project manager
  • Karolina Fredriksson, PhD, Assistant project manager
  • Aiko Nakano Hylander, PhD, Information specialist
  • Maria Bergman, Project assistant

From the National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools

Karin Fröding, PhD, Assistant project manager


Alva Appelgren, PhD
Project manager
tel: 08-523 29 819