Relief in a SNAP

Pat TrebatoskiPat Trebatoski grew up playing sports with her five brothers and continued that active lifestyle through the years. So when the retired teacher was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, she wasn’t going to let it slow her down.
Trebatoski saw a newspaper article describing a new program sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation. That program was the Special Needs Aquatic Program (SNAP) at UW-Stevens Point, developed by Rory Suomi, Ph.D., in the fall of 1992.
“Exercises on land, even walking, were getting difficult for me so I wanted to try exercising in the water, which has less stress on your joints and muscles,” remembered Trebatoski, who was also intrigued by the heated pool.
She wasn’t the only one attracted to the program. More than 2,400 adults enrolled in SNAP throughout the past 20 years, even some as far away as Marshfield, Plainfield, Wausau and Waupaca.
•Point of Pride•
The School of Physical Education & Athletic Training has close working relationships with Central Wisconsin health care providers as well as local school districts. Our athletic training program provides services to area high schools while several local elementary schools bring their students to our Health Enhancement Center for instruction from our physical education students.
Not only did UWSP offer these services to adults, but also to infants, toddlers and preschool children. “Since usage of the therapeutic pool has limitations due to its shallow depth, we focused on two populations: aquatic exercise sessions for adults with disabilities and swim instruction for early childhood students,” said Suomi.
For Trebatoski, participating in SNAP helps alleviate the body-wide pain and tenderness in her joints and muscles. “The range of motion exercises for both upper and lower body have kept me more flexible than I would be without them.”
Learning and teaching is undeniably a two-way street in this program. Physical education and athletic training students utilize the SNAP classes as an observation site, serving as an assistant or a practicum instructor.
“SNAP provides an outstanding community-based exercise venue for older adults in the Stevens Point community while allowing UWSP students to be involved in real-life fitness programming for this population,” said Suomi. “The focus of these programs is to enhance the teaching ability of our students.”
Like many of its participants, SNAP has stood the test of time. Suomi has presented at state and national meetings and the program also earned the Outstanding Arthritis Health Professional Award and the Outstanding Community Development Award from the Arthritis Foundation Wisconsin Chapter.
Twenty years after her original diagnosis, Trebatoski is a model SNAP student. “Sometimes, it’s an effort to get motivated to go to the class, but I always feel rejuvenated when it is over,” said Trebatoski, who has a 95% attendance record over the years, excluding the time she took off for a knee replacement.
Trebatoski finds solace being a part of the program. “The class not only restores my physical energy, but I have developed some healthy friendships with other participants who also have various chronic pain conditions and joint replacements,” said Trebatoski. “It’s a support group that I don’t like to miss twice a week.”