Feature Article - October 2007
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Therapeutic Recreation Embraces All Abilities

By Dana Carman

What is therapeutic recreation?

According to the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA), "therapeutic recreation is the provision of treatment services and the provision of recreation services to persons with illnesses or disabling conditions. The primary purposes of treatment services, which are often referred to as recreational therapy, are to restore, remediate or rehabilitate in order to improve functioning and independence as well as reduce or eliminate the effects of illness or disability. The primary purposes of recreational services are to provide recreation resources and opportunities in order to improve health and well-being. Therapeutic recreation is provided by professionals who are trained and certified, registered and/or licensed to provide therapeutic recreation."

More simply put, recreational therapy is often defined as the healthcare service while therapeutic recreation is a broader term, which can encompass both the treatment services, which are physician-ordered, and the recreation services provided by local communities. While rehabilitation may be part of why a person utilizes therapeutic recreation in a community setting after his or her discharge, therapeutic recreation also helps those with disabilities with social interaction, life skills, self-esteem and self-confidence.

Like ATRA, the National Therapeutic Recreation Society (NTRS) is a membership organization that supports certified therapeutic recreation specialists (CTRS) and therapeutic recreation initiatives. The NTRS is a branch of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and works toward "advancing the belief that leisure and recreation are basic human rights and are critical to health, quality of life and happiness."

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) helps to put these rights in legal terms. Loosely translated, ADA provides individuals with disabilities the right to the same access to parks and recreation facilities and programming that those without disabilities are entitled to.

"Anybody with a disability has a right to attend programming within the community," said Alayne Kazin, service area coordinator for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, Division of Therapeutic Recreation.

Kathy Aceves, district manager for the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Division of Therapeutic Recreation Services, pointed out, "All other citizens can take advantage of programs paid for by city dollars. Why shouldn't people with disabilities?"