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April 2017 Newsletter

Anchor 1

"Student Opportunities Mark a Resurgence in APA and NAFAPA 2018 Location Announced for Oregon State University" (Issue 2; Apr, 2017)

Research Corner: Physical Activity and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder 

President's Note:
Heidi Stanish, PhD
Dept. of Exercise & Health Sciences
University of Massachusetts Boston

Greetings and Happy Spring!  On behalf of the NAFAPA Officers, I hope that you have all enjoyed a productive academic year and that you are embracing the energy and newness that comes with the spring season.  This edition of the NAFAPA newsletter is intended to update you briefly on our current undertakings, and to highlight the important work of a researcher and a graduate student.  We are very proud to present the work of Dr. Dale Ulrich (Professor, University of Michigan) and San Ouk Wee (Doctoral Candidate, University of Illinois at Chicago) who are undertaking impactful research and training in the field of Adapted Physical Activity.  This edition also includes a new section: Research Corner, where we identify a relevant research topic and invite a few experts to summarize their work in the area.  The topic for this first Research Corner is Physical Activity in Children with ASD and we are fortunate to include the exciting research of Dr. Megan MacDonald (Oregon State University).             


The 2018 NAFAPA symposium will be at Oregon State University!  We are very grateful to our colleagues, Drs. JK Yun and Megan MacDonald for spearheading this effort.  The dates will be announced soon.  The NAFAPA website has been revised and updated through the hard work of our Student Representatives. The website can now be viewed on multiple domains:,, and Please take a look and send us your comments and suggestions for content. 

In an effort in increase the visibility and influence of NAFAPA, the Board is working hard to develop and formalize affiliations with other professional organizations.  Led by Dr. Stamatis Agiovlasitis, we have already established affiliations with the American Kinesiology Association, the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance, and the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD).  We are working on creating additional partnerships and will update you as they are established.  As you know, our membership drive continues. To support continued growth, the NAFAPA Board would like to encourage you to support us through a NAFAPA membership and give special thanks to those who have already have done so.

As we look ahead to the research symposium in 2018, the Board will continue to work diligently on several important tasks that will expand and strengthen our organization including: revise and update the bylaws, grow our membership, increase our visibility, and more fully engage our members.  We will also soon solicit proposals for the 2020 symposium so that we can assist hosts early on to build an excellent program and contribute to fundraising efforts.  I encourage you all to continue your commitment to our wonderful organization as we forge ahead in our efforts to broaden the reach and impact of NAFAPA.  Please contact me with any feedback or recommendations so that when we come together in Corvallis we all feel fully engaged and united in our efforts to promote physical activity for populations with disabilities and/or special needs. 


With My Kindest Regards,


Upcoming Events: (click here for more calendar events)

AAIDD annual conference, June 26-29, 2017

ACSM annual meeting May 2017 -

Research Highlight
Research Highlight:
Dale Ulrich receives the Adapted Physical Activity Leadership Training Grant at the University of Michigan: Recruiting Doctoral & Post-Doctoral Students

In 2016, we were funded again by the US Office of Special Education Programs for five years. The intent of this leadership training is to recruit doctoral and post-doctoral students who have professional experiences in adapted physical activity/education or pediatric physical therapy and to train them to conduct evidence-based research in the motor or fitness domain involving individuals with disabilities. As Jeff McCubbin and I presented at the 2012 NAFAPA symposium, we have lost many faculty positions since 1990 at major universities in APA or related areas (e.g., motor development and intellectual disabilities). Faculty losses and the continuous decline of doctoral student applications in APA, suggests that APA as a graduate academic sub-discipline of kinesiology is at risk of being eliminated. It is my strong opinion that most of these faculty losses are due to university decisions to hire faculty with excellent research and grant productivity. One only has to look at the National Academy of Kinesiology Doctoral program rankings (Ulrich & Feltz, Kinesiology Review, 2016, 5, 101-118) to see that they weigh faculty publications and grant expenditures high in the rating system. Most faculty in APA are excellent teachers and community service providers but these characteristics are not part of the ranking system.

Our training grant is designed to maximize research competency and grant writing while maintaining excellent teaching competency in higher education. Four doctoral students and 3 post-doctoral students will be trained. They all must initiate a first year research project, present their results at a national conference and submit the results for publication. They should participate in a second study. This typically occurs during their lab rotation with another faculty member. This leads to a very comprehensive dissertation. Post-docs are required to present and publish their dissertation studies and to initiate follow-up studies. We encourage trainees to attend and present research outside of APA conferences. A good example is a student conducting a motor development or physical activity study involving children with ASD. They should present at IMFAR (International Meeting for Autism Research) or ACSM. The training grant budget affords students opportunities to enroll in non-academic training experiences such as learning to administer and score the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule to determine the level of severity of their research participants with ASD.

My goal in evaluating our leadership training is that upon graduation (1) they compare very well with doctoral students graduating in exercise physiology, biomechanics, motor control and development, and pedagogy, (2) they get good faculty positions, and (3) they also depart with better research skills than I have. Trainees are not obligated to apply to a research intensive university. I have observed one major outcome over the past 15 years of training, which is that many of the trainees continue to collaborate in research after they go their separate ways. This is critical given how difficult it is to recruit participants for our studies.

One major test of the impact of this leadership training is whether the University of Michigan decides to replace me once I retire.

Student Highlight
Student Highlight:
Sang Ouk (Tommy) Wee 
Ph.D Candidate at University of Illinois at Chicago

Sang Ouk Wee is a doctoral candidate in Rehabilitation Science at University of Illinois at Chicago. After receiving his master’s degree in exercise science at Auburn university, he decided to turn his academic focus to disability rehabilitation and received another master’s degree in Adapted Physical Activity (APA) from California State University Northridge (CSUN). Due to the inspiration received from the APA program at CSUN, he decided to pursue his doctoral degree in cardiovascular/autonomic rehabilitation for people with disabilities, including people with Down syndrome at University of Illinois at Chicago with full scholarship. His work has been recognized by presenting at numerous international conferences, including North American Federation of Adapted Physical Activity (NAFAPA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Experimental biology (EB) and more. In addition, he was awarded as 2016 young investigator award from Korean United States Applied Physiology society. His passion in academia is not only pursuing his research in rehabilitation in brain function in cognitive dysfunction, including Down syndrome, dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases, but also educating students to guide them to become a leader in the field of disability rehabilitation. 

Sang Ouk Wee


Evidence suggests that physically active lifestyles improve physical, social and mental health.  In our laboratory, at Oregon State University, the long-term research goal is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with disabilities, through physical activity (broadly defined).  In recent years, we’ve had a specific focus on children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Based on work from our laboratory, we’ve found that children with ASD have declining physical activity behaviors as they age, deficits in motor skills persistent with age and children with ASD are less physically active than their peers without disabilities.  We believe, this indicates a health-related disparity and acts a barrier to the known benefits of a physically active lifestyle.


The physical activity and motor behaviors of children with ASD are gaining attention in empirical research; yet, more traditional behavioral research related to ASD has focused on core characteristics of the disability, like how to improve social communicative skills and reduce stereotypical behaviors.  I strongly believe that our field, adapted physical activity (APA), has an important role to play moving forward as empirical research continues to examine the health and physical activity behaviors of children with ASD. 


Research Corner:
Physical Activity and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Megan MacDonald, PhD
College of Public Health & Human Services
Oregon State University
Research Corner

Our field has established links between better motor skills and better social communicative skills in young and school-aged children with ASD.  Furthermore, we know that we can improve the motor skills and physical activity related behaviors of children with ASD, through adapted physical activity programming.  For example, in a study that was conducted when I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, we found that children with ASD were successful at learning how to ride a two-wheeled bicycle when individualized instruction and focused time on task (riding a two-wheeled bicycle) was implemented.  So, the great news is that we can teach motor behaviors and ultimately we know that we can engage children with ASD in physically activity.  However, much of the work to date has been clinical, we’ve been successful with small samples of children with ASD, and specific interventions (e.g., bike camp); yet we’re primed as a field to examine and identify these practices on a larger scale. I believe it’s our responsibility to lead initiatives related to improving the physical activity behavior of children with ASD.  We’re connected with educational and early intervention networks and we’re skilled in respect to working directly with children with ASD, and implementing physical activity and motor behavior based programs. 


I think our future, in respect to physical activity and ASD, includes working together on multi-site empirically-based programs focused on our core area of strength, adapted physical activity. Together, I believe we can reduce health disparities in this group of children and ultimately improve the quality of life for children with ASD through physically active lifestyles.

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