Feature Article - January 2005
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Success in Therapeutic Recreation

Developing programs that will grow

By Kelli Anderson


ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Gathering information begins with self-evaluation of staff readiness and ADA compliance. Surveys, focus groups and strategic talking circuits are some of the methods that can provide a picture of the community's needs and interests. Through such research, facilities can learn what patrons want most or which obstacles most prevent disabled patrons from participating—like transportation, for example—so that solutions can be found. Assume nothing and ask everything.


A Little Help from My Friends

Not all disabled adults or children need additional assistance in TR programs, but additional help is often needed during the busiest seasons or for special events. Short of hiring a battalion of Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists, there are some more practical and creative solutions (and more affordable) in times of overload.

Part-timers can take up the slack to help problem-solve and generally keep the wheels of process turning smoothly. For areas requiring professional experience, hiring part-time behavioral specialists, experienced educators or persons wielding a psychology degree are perfect recruits.

Hiring part-time companions to assist in programs can come from a wider variety of sources. They often include people changing careers, people with a save-the-world-complex, people with big hearts, as well as therapists.

But for budgets that just won't budge, disabled patrons can use their own privately provided companion or facilities can enlist the help of a community volunteer program or look to agency resources.


MARKETING

Getting the word out that TR programming is available to a community that may have traditionally thought it was excluded from regular programs may take some creative marketing. For the city of St. Petersburg, information about both special and inclusive TR programming choices was done through a wide variety of venues like direct mail, Web sites, brochures placed in rehabilitation hospitals, and networking with schools, children's hospitals and day-care facilities, to name a few.