March 5, 2004
Leisure, sports important part of rehabilitation process
By Lisa Uzzle Gates
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—While it may not come to mind as readily as physical or occupational therapy, therapeutic recreation is an integral part of rehabilitation.
Degree programs are offered at Jackson State University, the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi.
The four-year undergraduate degree at USM, where former Methodist Rehabilitation Center patient Scott Davis is a student, is a major in recreation, with an emphasis in therapeutic recreation. Davis’ final step will be to sit for the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification exam.
“It’s a field that has grown fairly quickly and it is stabilizing right now. The job market and health care in general have stabilized, but the good times are coming back,” said Dr. Rick Green, the coordinator of the therapeutic recreation program at Southern Miss. “Our program is nationally accredited and our students’ test scores (on the certification exam) are always above average. We are very proud of our program.”
The profession of therapeutic recreation offers a variety of options, from working with people in a rehab hospital setting to the elderly in nursing homes to children with developmental disabilities in schools. The day to day tasks of the therapist include goals to help patients sharpen physical and mental skills, such as painting, sport activities or going on outings. And it’s not all fun and games.
“It looks like we are having fun, and we are, but there is much more to it,” said Ginny Boydston, therapeutic recreation director at Methodist Rehabilitation Center. Boydston was Davis’ therapist when he was a patient. “Therapeutic recreation develops confidence, self esteem and new leisure opportunities.”
Boydston said the first outing in a wheelchair, even if it’s just to a movie or the mall, can be very challenging. “When you have an injury or an illness that puts you in a chair you are learning how to do things from a different perspective and therapeutic recreation is an integral part of that,” she said.
In addition to helping patients adjust to new leisure activities, therapists work with more active patients in the area of sports, such as wheelchair basketball, rock climbing or water skiing. An increased awareness in the need for sports and leisure for people with disabilities has led to advances in equipment and adaptations of many sports. With the right equipment and training most sports can be played from a wheelchair, Boydston said.