Past-President Martin Block reports on hosting the 22nd ISAPA at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, from June 14-18. ISAPA was the largest gathering of adapted physical activity professionals in 2019 with more than 200 professors/students from around the world gathered together for the five-day symposium. Over two thirds of the participants were international representing Africa, S. American, Asia, and Eastern and Western Europe. There also was a three-day practitioner track with an additional 40 practitioners from the east coast with one teacher coming from as far away as Illinois. This was the first time ISAPA has been held in the US since 1991, and Charlottesville is by far the smallest city to host ISAPA.
The opening ceremony included a keynote from Dr. Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics International. He provided a powerful, motivating speech focusing on the new focus of Special Olympics – The Inclusion Revolution. Dr. David Legg, former President of Canada Paralympics and currently IFAPA President, gave the Lawrence Rarick Memorial Lecture with a thought-provoking presentation on the pros and cons of whether the Paralympics should merge with the Olympics into one large event. Over at the practitioner sessions participants learned about disability sports, how to modify physical education to include children with disabilities, Paralympics School Day to change attitudes towards disability, homemade adapted equipment for children with severe disabilities, Drums Alive, and the “evolutionary mismatch” that leads to structural problems and chronic pain and injury in everyone including those with disabilities.
One of the highlights of the conference was a visit to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home.
On Monday, the main focus was on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and the day started with a keynote by Dr. Thomas Frazier, the Chief Science Officer from Autism Speaks. Dr. Frazier presented research that is currently funded through Autism Speaks as well as future opportunities. He suggested that physical activity research is a needed focus area of study and worthy of receiving funding from Autism Speaks and other foundations. Practitioners were introduced to executive function and theory of the mind in children with ASD and how deficits in these two areas lead to the need for visual supports rather than using verbal cues.
Tuesday’s program concluded with a keynote from Allison Cernich, Director of the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health. Dr. Cernich presented on funding opportunities in physical activity and exercise for individuals with disabilities.
ISAPA concluded with a general assembly meeting of the International Federation of Adapted Physical Activity (IFAPA), which included saying goodbye to IFAPA Past-president Dr. Claire Boursier and the transition of the presidency from Dr. Martin Block to Dr. David Legg. ISAPA concluded with an award ceremony beginning with induction of ten new IFAPA Fellows representing a truly international group of scholars, two young professional scholars and the Elly Friedmann Outstanding APA Contribution Award to Dr. Pauli Rintala from Finland. The Elly Friedmann Award is considered the highest award within IFAPA. We look forward to meeting Dr Rintala as he will be hosting the 23rd ISAPA in Jyväskylä, Finland.