The therapeutic recreation process is a systematic method of planning and providing services for individuals with disabilities. The process is based on a systems theory approach. The system is designed for a guide for a well-defined, goal-oriented purpose to the activity or program being provided. It involves four phases: assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation. Use of the therapeutic recreation process is not dependent on location, but on systematic and consistent use of assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating services for people with disabilities.
The process is applied in settings like hospitals, long-term facilities and useful in leisure education and recreation participation settings, like park and recreation agencies and schools. Delivering therapeutic recreation services in community setting has been successful when the therapeutic recreation process is applied. It is not the setting that determines the use of the therapeutic recreation process, but the needs of the clients.
Using the therapeutic recreation process allows the therapeutic recreation specialist to individualize within recreation programs designed specifically for people with disabilities and to systematically develop support plans for inclusive recreation programs. The therapists conducts an assessment that identifies the client’s abilities and limitations by asking a series of questions related to social skills and observing their interactions with their peers.
Information is gathered not only for the client, but also from family, caregiver, social worker, friends, and vocational counselor to provide thorough information prior to participation so that the client needs may be addressed. The purpose is to determine the needs of the individual in relation to the independent functioning in recreation settings. Materials include questions designed to determine an individual’s needs related to independent recreation participation.
Program descriptions clarify activity content, participation requirements, possible risks, and intended outcomes that aid in determining these needs. Thorough and accurate information about the individual is necessary, even when participation is self initiated and voluntary. Without accurate information the quality of an assessment is compromised. Programs and activities may be pre-planned; assessments enable the therapeutic recreation specialist to individualize interventions, accommodations, and teaching strategies within group activities.
For example, the leisure education program in which the client is registered may have a group goal to improve socialization skills through participation in group activities, but the client will have a goal more specific to their needs, such as the client will use socially appropriate means to identify deficits in specific activity skill (i. e. sports), as well as general skill (i. e. social skills). In addition, assessments for an individual participating in a specialized recreation program may differ from an assessment used with someone who is interested in participating in an inclusive recreation program.
Assessments applied to those participating in separate programs often ask for more detail about the person’s level of functioning that an assessment used to analyze participation in inclusive recreation would. A unique aspect of a community recreation assessment is that it can be a lifelong process. Unlike treatment settings, such as hospitals where a therapeutic recreation specialist may only work with and individual for a brief period of time, people with disabilities who participate in community recreation programs often remain involved in programs for many years.
From the assessment of the client’s social skills, the therapist discovered that the client had trouble initiating and sustaining conversations. For example, the client would stand by themselves and watch their peers rather than joining in conversations. When the client’s peers would include them in conversations, the client would walk away. The therapeutic recreation specialist found that the client often feels like they do not know what to say to others.
The planning phase of the therapeutic recreation process can guide a therapeutic recreation specialist in developing individualized goals and objective for the client and then select recreation activities to meet the goals and objectives. The planning component is helpful for identifying activities to meet goals and objectives that promote independent recreation functioning. Some activities have the potential for improvement of functioning (i. e. warm water aquatics) in treatment and rehabilitation settings.
The therapist selects a twelve week leisure education program that includes social skills training components to meet the objectives outlined for the client. Leisure education focuses on the development and acquisition of leisure-related skills, attitudes, and knowledge so a person can express him/herself through leisure. Community recreation therapeutic recreation programs provide and ideal environment to apply leisure education goals by teaching how to access and utilize community recreation resources, as well as how to develop skills related to independent recreation functioning.
The therapists forms goals, develops objectives, specifies activities (i. e. social skills) and determines a means of evaluation. According to Austin and Crawford (1996), the implementation phase of the therapeutic recreation process is the action phase and involves carrying-out the individual or group program plan. The therapeutic recreation specialist carries out the social skills and dance program, focusing on group and individual goals, For example, the group will be taught how to appropriately ask someone to dance and the client will be taught ways to initiate conversations with dance partner.
The implementation phase involves coordinating and executing recreation activities proposed in the plan, as well as documenting information about the individual (i. e. his or her responses), the program (i. e. time of day, duration), and the activities (i. e. competitive vs. learning). Implementation of the individual plan in the recreation setting requires focusing to social (i. e. attitudinal), programmatic (i. e. adaptations), and environmental (i. e. accessibility) issues. For example, general recreation programs in which people with disabilities can be included may not be structured to accommodate people with a variety of disabilities.
The therapists may implement numerous adaptations or accommodations according to the individual’s disability and have knowledge and skills to make these adaptations to facilitate participation. Other factors that could affect the implementation of the individual plan include inconsistent attendance of a participant with a disability, unanticipated facility/environmental issues, lack of support from family/caregivers, inconsistency of general recreation staff, and inappropriate program placement.
The therapist conducts evaluations on the client’s skills at the end of the twelve week program by asking the same series of questions asked in the assessment phase and conducting an observation. The purpose of the evaluation phase is to assess the client’s response to the planned program and the plan’s effectiveness and determine whether revisions are necessary. While conduction the evaluation, the therapists can interview the participant, speak with family members or caregivers, review documentation, administer questionnaires, and observe the participant while engaged in the activity.
Conducting a mid-term evaluation will aid in the clients process and help in necessary adjustments to a person’s program plan. Thorough and accurate documentation is a critical component of the evaluation process. An important concern with evaluative documentation in the settings is that the information is made available to others and is ultimately utilized. For example, at the conclusion of the leisure education program, the client may choose to enroll in a new program with different general or therapeutic recreation staff.
Assessment and evaluation information should be passed on to the staff of the client’s new program to ensure continuity of goals and objectives. Applying the evaluation phase of the therapeutic recreation process in the therapeutic recreation settings can be advantageous in that information tracking can be done over a long period of time, enabling in-depth, longitudinal evaluations.
However, a limitation of conducting the evaluation phase of the therapeutic recreation process I the settings is that pieces of information gathered at different points in time may become fragmented and not unified in one location. The therapist’s role is to compile the various evaluative elements into comprehensive evaluation document to be used across specialized and inclusive contests over time.
RESOURCES Austin, D. R. , & Crawford, M. E. (1996). Therapeutic recreation: An introduction. (2nd ed. ). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Howe-Murphy, R. , & Charboneau, B. (1987). Therapeutic recreation intervention: An ecological perspective. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc. Sylvester, C. (Ed. ). (1996). Philosophy of therapeutic recreation: Issues and ideas. Volume II. Ashburn, VA: National Therapeutic Recreation Society Peterson, C. A. , & Gunn, S. L (1984). Therapeutic recreation program design: Principles and procedures. (2nd ed. ). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc RECREATION EVALUATION RCSM 351 12/07/2010 PEGGY PEARSON