Recreational therapy utilizes fun play activities to help children with disabilities, whether the disabilities are physical, mental or emotional, to learn daily living skills, improve socialization, and enjoy time with family and friends. Some of the benefits of recreational therapy for children include adaptive recreation skills; improvement of attention, memory, perception, hand/eye coordination, and orientation; development of leisure skills; leisure education; pain management; physical conditioning and exercise activity; socialization; stress management/coping skills; and time management. Although each recreational therapy is unique, all share several goals in common. These goals include improving the physical, mental, and emotional wellness of the children through education, treatment (activities), and peer interaction; identifying past, current, and future leisure interests to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle; and helping the children learn valuable life skills for successful integration into home, school, and community based activities.
What kinds of activities help reach those benefits and goals? Here are several examples:
- Shopping and mall excursions teach teenagers with disabilities time and money management skills and helps them socialize within the community.
- Taking young children with disabilities to the circus is not only entertaining for them, but it helps them with their attention, orientation, perception, and memory and helps them participate in recreational activities.
- With the Paralympics in London in full swing, orchestrating a Recreational Therapy Program’s own version of the Games is a great way to help the children exercise and develop a love of sport.
To learn more about recreation therapy and the research behind it, visit our publication reSearch edition titled Recreational Therapy, Exercise, & Leisure Activities for Individuals with Disabilities. We also
recommend the following articles from our collection:
- Social and community participation of children and youth with cerebral palsy is associated with age and gross motor function classification. NARIC Accession Number: J57813.
- Determinants of social participation – with friends and others who are not family members – for youths with cerebral palsy. NARIC Accession Number: J60613.
These and more than 25 articles are abstracted in the REHABDATA database and available for document delivery.
Are you interested in a career in recreation therapy?
To learn more about recreational therapy as a career, visit the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA). And to learn more about activity directors, visit the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP).