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Recreational Therapy Month: Helping youth, adults with special needs stay active and engaged

“By using activities, such as aquatic therapy, board games and culinary classes, recreational therapy can help children, adolescents and adults reduce stress and anxiety; build self-confidence and self-esteem; and lead healthier and happier lives.”
— Devereux Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical/Medical Officer Yolanda Graham, M.D.

February is Recreational Therapy Month and Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health wants to highlight the significant impact recreational activities can have on individuals living with emotional, behavioral and cognitive differences.

“Recreational therapy is designed to help youth and adults improve their overall quality of life,” said Graham. “By participating in recreational activities on regular basis, either one-on-one or in a group, the individuals we serve have the opportunity to realize their inherent strengths; learn new skills; achieve their goals and, most importantly, have fun.”

Collaboration is key to success

In March 2020, Devereux created a National Recreation Committee comprised of recreation specialists who meet virtually every week to share creative and effective ways to keep the individuals in their care happy, engaged and fulfilled.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to work with colleagues from across the country. This has been especially important during COVID-19 as we look for fun, innovative and safe ways to help our individuals stay active,” explained Devereux Colorado Recreation Programs Manager Alex Dorsam, M.S. “While each center serves a different population, we share ideas that will translate from one center to another. We have even held national events, including a no-bake cooking competition, pumpkin painting contest and gingerbread house competition.”

Dorsam says he values and appreciates the input he receives from his colleagues as they work together to help the individuals they serve grow and thrive.

“Everyone brings a different perspective to the table. I find out what recreational activities other centers are implementing, determine how I can make them work at Devereux Colorado, and vice versa,” Dorsam shared. “We recently held a series of virtual talent shows, an idea shared by our Texas center. Youth had the opportunity to showcase their singing, dancing and comedic skills – it was a huge success. Over the summer, I organized Devereux Colorado’s first Cardboard Regatta. A total of 10 teams received two sheets of cardboard and one roll of duct tape – and they had 40 minutes to design and build a racing craft. They then raced their boats against the other teams in our pool. We also held our very own campus Olympics, which lasted two weeks and featured swimming relays, three-point shooting contests, ‘Minute to Win It’ games, track and field events, and more.”

Benefits of recreational activities

At Devereux, providing fun, safe and effective recreational activities is a critical component of the successful treatment of youth and adults with special needs. Dorsam says the physical, social, emotional and cognitive benefits of these opportunities include:

  • Boosted self-esteem and self-efficacy
  • Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
  • Improved physical fitness, strength and coordination
  • Increased socialization
  • Enhanced mental alertness and attention span
  • Boosted problem-solving skills
  • Increased independence
  • Strengthened resilience

“By playing a sport, doing arts and crafts, gardening or climbing a rock wall, we emphasize the importance of self-confidence, perseverance, following expectations and being respectful,” Dorsam said. “One day, one of our individuals was climbing a rock wall when he stopped about half-way up and told our team he could not go any farther. Staff members encouraged him and told him he could get to the top – and he did! He later told us, ‘I always say I can’t and you guys tell me I can. I guess I can always do more than I think I can.’ He learned in that moment to never give up, an important lesson for all of our individuals.”

Learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.

 

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