Feature Article - October 2007
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Play For All

Therapeutic Recreation Embraces All Abilities

By Dana Carman

Activity has never seemed more important. With obesity a national healthcare crisis, it's obvious that both children and adults aren't utilizing the great outdoors or recreational opportunities. Once upon a time, everyone went outside to "play"—build forts and imagine the characters in them, ride bicycles, draw stick figures on the cement in chalk, enjoy a game of baseball or kickball, run around playing tag—and it was considered critical to growing up to do so. That much hasn't changed, and the importance of recreation to development has gained increasing recognition, particularly in the area of therapeutic recreation, which uses recreation to produce positive benefits for people with disabling conditions.

Use a form of the word "therapy," and most people assume it takes place in clinical settings, like hospitals or rehab facilities. While therapeutic recreation can take place in clinical settings and is sometimes incorporated into a rehabilitative plan for a patient, which may also include occupational therapy, physical therapy or speech therapy, therapeutic recreation also takes place in the community setting, such as through local parks and recreation programs.

As recreation specialists know, recreational programming isn't just about being physically active, though that is a part of these programs. It's also about social interaction, mental stimulation and engaging creativity. This is why it's critical when creating programming that all populations are considered, including those with disabilities.

A Day at the Beach

The City of San Diego Park and Recreation Therapeutic Recreation Services offers a motorized wheelchair program, which provides access to the sand at Mission Beach. These state-of-the art chairs make it possible for those with a mobility impairment to propel independently on the sand. According to Kathy Aceves, District Manager with the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Therapeutic Recreation Services, the chairs are such a bit hit with tourists that some come back each year because they know they're available.