Feature Article - January 2005
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Success in Therapeutic Recreation

Developing programs that will grow

By Kelli Anderson


INCLUDING INCLUSION

Unfortunately for the quick-fix types among us, there is no magic formula, no one-size-fits-all, for instant TR-programming readiness. But there are some tried-and-true principles, policies and processes that will help make any facility equipped to handle each individual's unique needs.

It helps to have inclusion policies that promote a staff-wide inclusive mindset. Just as TR was once limited to the "separate but equal" practice of special-needs programming, so too was the tendency to single out the responsibility of staffers who would deal with the needs of the disabled.

"Inclusion has really been made a part of our whole operation here," NSSRA's McGovern says, explaining that it's not only a subject of regular conversation in their governing board meetings for their 12 park districts, but statements of inclusion are in all of their employees' job descriptions and are part of their performance evaluations. Everyone takes ownership.

THE RIGHT STAFF

Not all recreation facilities have the luxury of affording extra staff or a new department, but when considering the best investment for providing quality TR programming, few choices could be better than hiring a CTRS. CTRSs knows recreation and they know disability—they are equipped to research the community's needs, to design programming changes and to evaluate each disabled patron individually to recommend appropriate accommodations.

Whether hired full time or part time, consulted or even bartered—traded from one facility to another in exchange for the use of something like a pool or equipment—the role of a CTRS is virtually indispensable to developing a quality TR program.

If enlisting the aid of a CTRS is a top priority, then providing existing key staffers with inclusion training runs a close second. Such training, like the annual three-day National Recreation and Parks Association's National Institute on Recreation Inclusion (NIRI) provides the practical "how-to's" of registration processes, assessments of a disability, developing accommodation plans, and learning the ins and outs of planning processes, to name a few.

However, there are growing numbers of private consultants who teach similar materials and even universities that now offer courses on inclusion. Whatever the investment in training or resourcing, looking at what others have done successfully in a community or park district also provides a ready resource (read: free).