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Recreational Therapy Month: Enhancing quality of life for individuals with disabilities

“Recreational therapy differs from other forms of therapy in that it uses activity-based interventions, such as arts and crafts, games and sports to help individuals learn new skills, achieve greater independence and enhance their quality of life.”
– Devereux Pennsylvania CBHS Executive Director Patricia Hillis-Clark, Psy.D.

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

Across the country, Devereux offers a wide variety of recreational activities and programs that promote the overall health and well-being of children, adolescents and adults. At Devereux Pennsylvania Children’s Behavioral Health Services (CBHS), recreation therapists strive to meet the unique needs of each individual, incorporating their strengths and interests to make recreational opportunities meaningful, relevant – and fun.

“We want the youth in our care to take what they have learned by participating in recreational activities, and then transfer those skills to real life situations,” said Hillis-Clark. “For example, when the individuals we serve play a game, such as volleyball, they not only are improving their physical fitness, strength and coordination, but they also are increasing their social skills and learning the value of teamwork.”

Acquiring valuable skills

Devereux Pennsylvania CBHS Certified Recreation Therapist Lindsay Green says she helps the children and adolescents she serves set goals based on their needs and abilities.

“With our younger kids, we do a lot of problem-solving activities,” Green shared. “Recently, we held a ‘snowball fight.’ We asked a group of children to write something on a piece of paper that makes them feel sad, anxious or stressed. Then, they crumbled the paper and threw it to the ground. Later, they shared what they had written with the rest of the group. This activity allowed our kids to release their emotions in a safe and effective way. With our teens, we teach life skills to help them prepare for independent living. We play sports and board games, and hold ‘family dinners’ once a week where they plan the meal and cook. Our youth build social skills and tolerance, and learn how to take turns and follow directions.”

Learning life lessons

Green says her goal is to help those in her care find an activity, game or hobby that makes them happy – one they can use to help manage their emotions and behaviors when they are struggling.

“Everyone has their own thing, and I want to help them find it,” Green explained. “Recreational therapy is beneficial in so many ways. One day, we held puzzle races, and I paired up our teens to see which pair could complete their puzzle the fastest. When I found out that some of the kids had a disagreement earlier in the day, the activity turned into a life lesson. I told them, ‘There will always be someone – a classmate, roommate or co-worker – you do not always agree with, but you have to find common ground.’ Afterward, the teens expressed how much they enjoyed the activity, and noted that, “We are not all that different.’ These are teachable moments they can carry with them once they leave Devereux.”

Learn more about Devereux Pennsylvania Children’s Behavioral Health Services, and learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.


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