Top international and national minds are gathering in Sydney this week for the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s (APA) MOMEMTUM 2017 scientific conference. One of these is La Trobe University’s Professor Nora Shields, who will present the results of an innovative study that has since transitioned into an ongoing physical activity program for young people with disability.

Research has shown that young people with disability have poorer health and higher rates of obesity and diabetes compared to typically developing youth. While this could be prevented by exercising, these young people tend not to participate in physical activity because of their need for social support and a lack of suitable programs.

FitSkills is the La Trobe University program that was borne of joining young people with Down Syndrome together with an undergraduate physiotherapy student mentor, where both participated in a unique one-on-one exercise program together, making it both a social experience as well as a physical workout.

The FitSkills program not only results in better health, but also better attitudes to disability, with students improving both their clinical skillset and their understanding of disability. Nora was inundated with positive responses from families and students after the initial study concluded. “The inclusion of a mentor helped with a social connection and someone to exercise with, while the students improved their communication and professional skills, but more importantly their attitudes towards disability improved markedly as a result of the program.”

Professor Nora Shields will be available for interview at MOMENTUM 2017.

What: Pathways to participation in physical activity for young people with disability

When: 1.15 – 2.00pm Thursday 19 October (room C4.1)

Where: MOMENTUM 2017 Physiotherapy Conference International Conference Centre Darling Harbour, Sydney 

The full conference program can be downloaded here.


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