Feature Article - January 2005
Find a printable version here

Success in Therapeutic Recreation

Developing programs that will grow

By Kelli Anderson


It all begins with a can-do attitude that changes a traditionally "just say no" response to inclusive TR into a response that invites and initiates cooperation.

"You start with having a policy statement that welcomes all people," says John McGovern, executive director of Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association (NSSRA) in Northbrook, Ill. "It might be making sure a mission statement incorporates services for people with disabilities and mentions that you provide services in the most integrated setting."

Among those facilities getting it right is the park district in award-winning St. Petersburg, Fla., recipient of a National Therapeutic Recreation Society's (NTRS) award for excellence in 2000. For St. Petersburg, an inclusive mission statement ultimately is embodied by helpful staff.

"The most important thing is a welcoming attitude of the staff," says Barbara Van Camp, recreational supervisor of therapeutic programming for the city. "You have to be willing to work with anyone who expresses an interest."


You also need to have an effective plan. According to Fernandez, Reno's mid-sized park district had little special recreation when he was hired almost four years ago and had no resources to start an inclusion department. However, with an investment in Fernandez's professional experience and credentials as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), the city followed his lead—a processing approach that targeted the answers to two fundamental questions: How do we get people with special needs in our door, and once in, how do we include them?