Adapted Aquatics program honored with national award

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville will be honored by the Society of Health and Physical Educators at its annual convention this week. The organization, known as SHAPE America, selected the Department of Health and Human Performance’s Adapted Aquatics program to receive its Adapted Physical Education/Activity Program of the Year Award.

“I’m quite honored to be recognized with this award,” said Dr. Tim Swenson, assistant professor of health and human performance and coordinator of the Adapted Aquatics program. “For SHAPE to recognize us as a Program of the Year is more a reflection of the opportunities I’ve had at UW-Platteville to get so many people involved. There has been nothing but support [from administration and local schools] for the program.”

The Adapted Aquatics program is a component of one of Swenson’s Health and Human Performance courses. The program partners with local K-12 schools, which bring students with disabilities to campus to receive specialized swim instruction from Swenson’s students.

Swenson begins the semester instructing his Health and Human Performance students on disability law, the Americans with Disabilities Act and accessibility in public buildings, as well as common disabilities and ways to modify instruction. After this period, students from local schools come for swim instruction one day a week. Swenson spends the other class sessions during the week preparing for the swim day. He receives information in advance from the teachers about the students’ disabilities so that his students can work on plans for how to best adapt their instruction in the pool that week.

“The biggest takeaway from students in this class is receiving that overall hands-on experience,” said Swenson. “They learn the ability to adapt and modify in order to make something work for every student. As a teacher, that flexibility is needed when it comes to instruction. It’s great experience for our students and it also helps rural schools get some extra services for students with disabilities.”

Swenson credits the partnerships with local K-12 schools in making this program a success. He has overseen the program for 14 years and during that time has helped it expand from partnering with two local schools to as many as 10.

“This class would not be where it is today if there weren’t teachers willing to bring their students here,” said Swenson. “It can take up a lot of their time, but they see the value. Not only do their students get some specialized instruction, but they are also supporting future teachers. They know that our students are likely going to stay somewhere in this area when they graduate. A lot of our students are from Southwest Wisconsin and typically stay in the region when they graduate. Receiving this award is gratifying, because we know that we’re doing a nice thing here in serving Southwest Wisconsin.”

The program will be recognized at the 2023 SHAPE America National Convention and Expo in Seattle, Washington, March 28-April 1.