Oct. 27, 2009
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
SRU's Adapted Physical Activity Day advocates inclusion
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University will offer an Adapted Physical Activity Awareness Day Nov. 11 to advocate the importance of including those with disabilities in adapted physical activity sessions in educational and community-based settings. The free program, from noon to 8 p.m., will include information booths, student-led activity demonstrations, a T-shirt giveaway, lunch on the Quad, wheelchair sports and more.
"One of the most important civil rights movements in the world is providing physical activity opportunities for people with disabilities," said Robert Arnhold, SRU professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences and awareness day coordinator. "We want to let people know that people with disabilities aren't necessarily ill or generally sickly. People with disabilities participate in physical activity like anyone else and can be healthy and productive. Those individuals we serve work with Slippery Rock University students in recreation, swimming, rock climbing, fitness, physical education and horseback riding."
The SRU Council of Trustees officially designated Nov. 11 as Adapted Physical Activity Day to celebrate the University's academic programs and commitment to improving the lives of those with disabilities. SRU offers a minor in adapted physical activity with about 120 students enrolled and a graduate program with 22 full-time students enrolled. Students lead weekly activity sessions with more than 300 community residents between the ages of 3 and 93, according to Arnhold.
Students conceived the day a year ago "because they love the program so much and wanted to see it recognized," he said.
The awareness day will offer information booths and a T-shirt giveaway from noon to 1 p.m. in the University Union; lunch and sports demonstrations from 1-3 p.m. in the Quad outside Bailey Library; a "Kids in Action" swimming and recreation demonstration from 4:30-5:30 p.m. in the Pearl K. Stoner Instructional Complex; dinner and activities from 5:15-6:30 p.m. at Boozel Dining Hall and wheelchair sports from 7-8 p.m. in the Robert N. Aebersold Student Recreation Center.
Able-bodied students and community residents will be able to participate in some of the activities, many of which will be designed to increase general awareness. Activities in the Bailey Library Quad will enable participants to play sports blindfolded, or in a wheelchair.
Arnhold said he hopes the program changes attitudes and helps more people see the big-picture benefits of providing activity sessions for those with disabilities. Health promotion programs reduce the likelihood of obesity and secondary conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, thus reducing health-care costs, he said.
"We are finding that we are impacting adults clients as well as children," he said. "They're becoming more physically active. Their Body Mass Index is going down, which is a good thing, and they are participating in physical activity more independently and with less support."
Amanda Budzowski, a graduate student from Hermitage, said there are more than 50 million persons with disabilities currently living in the U.S. Research indicates the proportion is increasing, demonstrating the growing need for more public-health programs reaching special populations.
"I am involved in adapted physical activity because you need to be the change you wish to see in the world," Budzowski said. "Slippery Rock University is one of the few universities across the country doing the types of programs that we run. I have been to conferences and talked to other students, and they admire that our program is hands-on from day one with the people who need and benefit from our services."
She said the Awareness Day is important because it will demonstrate that people with disabilities can participate in many activities, and it will raise the awareness level among SRU students who are enrolled in other programs.
"It will be a chance for students to sit in a wheelchair or eat lunch blind because those are also activities they may have never experienced," said Budzowki, who received her bachelor's degree in exercise science and a minor in adapted physical activity from SRU in 2008. "In the minor, we all spend an entire day blind or in a wheelchair as apart of a class, and it helps you get a clear understanding of what it's like. It will be amazing to see other students from all over campus get a chance to do these same things," she said.
Budzowski said she plans to pursue a doctorate in public health administration after completing her master's degree at SRU.
"Exercise is medicine and what I have learned in exercise science along with adapted physical activity will facilitate my career goals in working for the government and being an advocate for special populations," she said. "The professors here at Slippery Rock University have always inspired me to go for the gold. I would love to be in higher education someday making the same differences in students and community members' lives."
Ben Brilmyer, a graduate student from Bridgeville, said his involvement with the program has been an invaluable experience to his professional development.
"Working with special populations is an extremely rewarding experiences that teaches you that the limits people with disabilities encounter are more due to a lack of education and environment than of actual ability," he said. Participating in a program where everyone shares the same passion, goals and motivation enables you to learn and grow so much more then you would in a typical program. It is more like a family then it is an academic department. The professors genuinely care about your progress and will do anything to help you succeed."
SRU's program has been recognized nationally. The late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics, and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation collaborated with SRU because of its leadership in adapted activities. Shriver asked SRU to help re-launch her Camp Shriver program nationwide a couple years ago.
SRU's minor was named the Outstanding Adapted Physical Activity Program of The Year for 2008 by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance's Adapted Physical Activity Council.
Another adapted program run by students, I Can Do It, You Can Do It, was selected to be the national role model for launching nine new programs nationwide. This program is part of a three-year federal contract from the National Institutes of Health.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.