On February 23 and 24 the Aquatic Therapy & Rehab Institute (ATRI) delivered a national continuing education training, “Professional Development Days” in partnership with the Abilities United Aquatic Services located at the Betty Wright Swim Center https://www.abilitiesunited.org/page.aspx?pid=284 in Palo Alto, California.

February is national heart month in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of non-institutionalized US adults with diagnosed heart disease is 26.5 million and heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans (597,689 deaths in 2010 (1) ; 32% of total deaths from leading causes). Regular exercise is essential to prevent, manage, and recover from heart disease issues and water exercise yields many benefits over other types of physical activity while it also  provides an ideal complement to land workouts. The buoyancy, resistance, and hydrostatic pressure provided by the water contribute to making the cardiorespiratory system function efficiently with minimal impact on the joints, spine, or feet. In addition, immersion in the fluid medium, especially in a warm-water environment like the pool at the Betty Wright Swim Center, helps everyone relax and feel comfortable at the same level as everyone else.

“Water is the greatest equalizer” was the motto of Betty Wright, the iconic pioneer who founded the Betty Wright Swim Center.  Today her vision is a reality, as the Betty Wright Swim Center team continues Betty’s vision of defying physical gravity and social prejudices alike, especially for those who can benefit the most from exercising in warm water.

Ongoing training of aquatic professionals is necessary to ensure that water therapy and exercise are performed safely and most effectively, so that the health benefits for all patients and participants can be optimized. Earning “Continuing Education Credits” (CECs) is critical to stay abreast of the latest techniques, practices, and treatment plans for successfully working with people who live with a variety of chronic diseases. Professionals are practitioners who are invested in keeping their practice up-to-date through continual educational courses, such as those offered by ATRI. Every year, community health workers invest anywhere between 20 to 100 hours in training, the equivalent to 3-12 full days, to update their clinical and manual skills.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the leading medically aligned health and fitness certifying body, recommends that practitioners obtain CECs by completing college coursework and online training modules and by attending annual conferences and professional health and fitness training offered by clinical organizations, such as ATRI, which do not require pre-approval by ASCM’s Education Department. Practitioners rely on professional training opportunities like the ones offered by ATRI every year to maintain, advance, and refine their skills so they can help people with a variety of conditions live better, exercise safely, and follow a healthy regimen.

“We were thrilled to host ATRI at Abilities United Betty Wright Swim Center for the second consecutive year. The  weekend was filled with practical, hands-on training  delivered by some of the nation’s most gifted and creative aquatic therapists, including ATRI’s maverick and leader Ruth Sova, and Beth Scalone, PT, DPT.” – says Rho Henry Olaisen, Abilities United Aquatics Director – “We are now working through the second year in the execution of our strategic plan: ‘Local Therapy Center Today, National Aquatic Health and Wellness Therapy Leaders in 2014’. The opportunity to be selected as one of five sites in the United States for ATRI’s professional development days is a testimony to our work as a national community resource center for learning and sharing best practices. We hosted professionals from throughout the country, who made Palo Alto their destination for a long weekend of learning and exploration of the benefits of aquatic therapy. Traveling to Palo Alto means gathering at the world’s hub, not just of today’s venture capital, but of tomorrow’s health and wellness.”

The two-day workshop covered introduction to aquatic therapy, AquaStretch™ at different levels, post-stroke treatment plan, and progressions for water rehab: vertical, seated, and horizontal applications.
The course was taught by two renowned aquatic professionals: Ruth Sova and Beth Scalone.

Ruth Sova, MS, ATRIC, an internationally known speaker, author and consultant, is the founder of six different businesses including the Aquatic Therapy & Rehab Institute, the Aquatic Exercise Association, Living Right Magazine, America’s Certification Trainers, Armchair Aerobics Inc., and the Fitness Firm. A leader in the health and wellness industry, she also draws on her vast experience as an entrepreneur to teach others what it takes to assume the risk of business and enterprise.

“We have selected the Abilities United Betty Wright Swim Center again for our Professional Development Days,”  says Ruth Sova, “because of the unique combination of highly skilled staff at the center, who have provided tremendous help in the past, the warm-water indoor facility, and the specific design of the pool, which is wheelchair-accessible, has zero-depth entry, and allows the flexibility to practice different moves at the shallow, medium and deep end. We look forward to returning to Palo Alto.”

Beth Scalone, PT, DPT, OCS, is an APTA (American Physical Therapy Association)-certified clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy and a certified Master Instructor for the Burdenko Institute. She has taught a variety of aquatic therapy continuing education courses. As the owner of North County Water and Sports Therapy Center in San Diego, Beth offers hands-on clinical care in addition to her role as educator. She is an adjunct faculty in the San Diego Mesa College PTA Program, teaching orthopedic rehabilitation and introduction to pathology courses. She also provides the learning module/instruction on aquatic therapy to the University of St. Augustine-San Diego Campus DPT Program. www.waterpt.com

Abilities United Betty Wright Swim Center clinical supervisor, Joanna Marsheck, summarized the two-day-long training by noting: “It was refreshing to gather with other aquatic professionals to engage in active learning throughout the weekend. Aquatics expert Beth Scalone presented the AquaStretch™ technique in a user-friendly format, combining classroom teaching of the evidence-based concepts with ample pool time for demonstrating and practicing in the water.“

A sought-after swim instructor in Abilities United Betty Wright Swim Center Recreation Program  commented: “The ATRI training was an amazing experience […] learning about holds and techniques, terms and new ways to think, truly opened my eyes to the world of Aquatic Rehabilitation”. This corroborates our training approach, in which proper cross training enhances learning opportunities for staff and amplifies the health benefits for our participants across programs. Among trainees from other organizations, one remarked, “This [the Betty Wright Swim Center] is a great facility because we have different ways of accessing the pool, which makes it very accommodating to anyone who is in a wheelchair or has other mobility limitations.

About ATRI
The Aquatic Therapy & Rehab Institute, Inc. (ATRI) http://www.atri.org is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to the professional development of healthcare professionals involved with aquatic therapy. Headquartered in Lutz, Florida, ATRI offers continuing education courses at conferences that will advance the knowledge and skills of the aquatic therapist.

About Abilities United Betty Wright Swim Center
Abilities United, a Palo Alto nonprofit championing people of all abilities, offers Aquatic Services  in the fully accessible, indoor, warm-water therapeutic pool of the Betty Wright Swim Center. We deliver quality aquatic rehabilitation, fitness and recreation services to individuals of all ages and physical and developmental abilities. People in wheelchairs can easily enter the pool using water-accessible wheelchairs and the zero-depth wheelchair ramp. The recently installed state-of-the-art solar-heating and saline water systems make the water and air environments comfortable for all individuals and ideal for adults and children with a physical disability or a chronic condition such as arthritis or fibromyalgia.
Staff members participate in monthly, quarterly and annual trainings to stay current on the latest techniques and methods in aquatic fitness, recreation, and rehabilitation. A recognized local aquatic therapy provider today, we operate under a strategic plan to become a national aquatic health and wellness therapy leader by 2014.

Founded in 1963, Abilities United celebrates 50 years of service to the Bay Area community members and continues to be a model of how society can be barrier-free to enable the full participation of people with disabilities and their families. Each year, more than 2,500 people and their families use our training, education and support services. Abilities United is conveniently located in south Palo Alto near the Mitchell Park Public Library, shopping, and public transportation routes.

Aquatics media contacts:
•       Rho Olaisen, Aquatics Director rho@abilitiesunited.org
•       Lucia Panini, Aquatics Marketing and Communications Manager luciap@abilitiesunited.org

   (1) Center for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm/ and http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_06.pdf