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Therapeutic Recreation Services
One would readily agree that when we are doing the things we most enjoy, we are experiencing the "therapeutic" benefits of leisure. In fact, by its very origin, the word "recreation" means basically "to create anew." After that particularly difficult and arduous day at work or school, we often engage in some activity that will help us to decompress, feel better, reenergize. We attempt, through our recreation and leisure, to balance the demands placed upon us in non-leisure settings. We are, in essence, "re-creating" ourselves. It's not hard to believe that participating in recreation is therapeutic and beneficial. It's too fun not to be! However, therapeutic recreation, as a distinct aspect of leisure and recreation service delivery that uniquely focuses upon people with disabilities, must be considered differently.
Therapeutic Recreation involves a process, which uses recreation activities to habilitate or rehabilitate functional abilities, which contribute to behavioral change. The process involves assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation. The National Therapeutic Recreation Society states "therapeutic recreation uses treatment, education and recreation services to help people with illnesses, disabilities and other conditions to develop and use their leisure in ways that enhance their health, functional abilities, independence and quality of life".
Therapeutic recreation is provided by professionals who are trained and certified, registered and/or licensed to provide therapeutic recreation (1987)." A certified therapist is referred to as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS). The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation (NCTRC) is the nationally recognized organization for certifying the profession of therapeutic recreation.
AssessmentA comprehensive assessment of your child will provide the CTRS as well as you and your child's teachers an important baseline from which to begin designing your child's leisure education program. It is important for the CTRS to get a picture of your child from you, the parent, not only from your child. Parents, family members, and others who know your child well can, and should, play an active role in the assessment process.
The CTRS may choose to assess your child by observation, interview, or a combination of both. A standardized assessment tool will allow a CTRS to pinpoint your child's individual needs. The assessments are likely necessary to help justify recreation as a related service on your child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The following are questions a CTRS may ask during the assessment:
PlanningFrom the information gathered during the assessment, the CTRS will design a leisure education program tailored specifically for your child. Your child will have specific goals and objectives in order to address their specific needs. Parents will want to "sign-off" on this program, either as part of the school IEP or when it's a part of a community recreation program offered through the TR division of the local parks and recreation department.
ImplementationAfter the leisure education program is designed, the CTRS, personally or through staff under their direction, will begin to implement the leisure education program.
Strengthening muscles through play, a boy works with a therapist.
EvaluationThis will allow the CTRS to communicate what goals and objectives are being met and which ones may need a different plan of action to achieve. As the parent, you should make sure that you are involved in this phase. After the plan is complete, the CTRS will work with you in order to determine what the next step for your child will be.
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Copyright 2006, The Trustees of Indiana University and Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
This online resource has been created through a collaborative project of the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD) with content and design development by the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) and the Indiana University School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. This project is funded through a grant from the Division of Human Development and Disability at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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