All Schools Section Members,

We have an opportunity to make our voices be heard as CTRSs in the school systems.  The new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVoss, is requesting feedback regarding a new IDEA website.  See the link below to participate:

The government is seeking feedback on the IDEA’s new website. Please see:

They are interested in having the following questions answered (I have provided sample answers to help generate ideas of how you may want to respond):

1. What are the resources you use most often at

  • As a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) and a related service provider for individuals with special needs with IEPs, I use to find current information to support Therapeutic Recreation services being offered in school systems.  I most often encourage other educators, families, and students to search the related services sections of the IDEA legislation to discover that Therapeutic Recreation is a related service to which all students with special needs are entitled.

2. What additional information and/or functionality would you like to see included in the new IDEA site?

  • I would like to see a greater highlight, and as a result, advocacy for all the possible related services legally available to students with special needs in the school systems, especially Therapeutic Recreation as a related service.

3. Your title or role/designation (such as student, parent, educator, advocate, counselor, etc.), to help us gain a better understanding of who uses

  • Role:  IEP Related Service Provider, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), Recreational Therapist

Please take this opportunity to advocate for the supportive legislation and marketing of our profession’s role in the schools!

Thank you ☺

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Heidi Hunter or Tom House at

Child & Adolescent Section: Open Mic Update

We recently held an open mic call on February 7, 2017 & plan to continue with additional open mics in 2017! Let us know what you’re interested in discussing for upcoming open mics by e-mailing us @

During our call we discussed call for papers & walked members through an example proposal. A few tips….

  • When considering a proposal, you do not have to have the entire presentation established at time of submission.
  • You need your title, session description, 3 goals and an outline.
  • Within your outline, provide estimates length of time for covering each topic.
  • Trying to identify a topic? Think of your audience, think of what you’d like to learn about & voila! A topic might just come to you. ☺
    • What types of sessions would child & adolescent section members like to see?
      • Aromatherapy, camps, outdoor adventure, adaptive sports, leisure education

Top 3 Treatment Modalities…what do you use often or want to learn more about? A direction to head towards with evidence based practice committee involvement.

  • Animal Assisted Interventions
  • Aquatics
  • Increase strength & endurance
  • Leisure education & skills based training
  • Adapting & safely returning to community after brain injury, spinal cord injury, etc.
  • Community outings

How do YOU celebrate RT Month?

  • Lunch & Learn presentations
  • Co-treatments
  • Themes
    • Tshirts & events planned according to theme
  • E-mail blasts

Please consider joining us for the next open mic & thank you to those of you who joined us especially our surprise guests, ATRA Board Member Thea Kavanaugh & ATRA President Marilyn Radatz!

Abby Pestak & Kaylee McGuired
Co-leaders of Child & Adolescent Section

HR 626

Hello Older Adult Section!

How can you influence federal legislation and regulation to positively impact consumers and the practice of RT?

Track HR 626

Join  an  advocacy force for the long term and post-acute care profession. AHCA is dedicated to giving care providers the information they need to advocate both on Capitol Hill and in their statehouses.  With our tools, resources and how-to guides, it’s easy speak out, stay informed and take action on issues affecting long term and post-acute care.

2017 Public Policy Priorities

  1. Monitor legislative action on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  2. Monitor potential action on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  3. Reintroduce the Inpatient Rehabilitation Act directing CMS to acknowledge recreational therapy within inpatient rehabilitation settings
  4. Develop and implement a Legislative Summit in Washington DC for ATRA members
  5. Expand partnerships and collaborative relationships with national organizations
  6. Monitor federal legislation in skilled nursing, behavioral health, community, inpatient rehabilitation, veteran services, and schools

Keep up to date one ATRAs Public Policy Page:

Some easy Do’s and Don’ts:

 Don’t share talking points sheet with representatives

  • Don’t make things up
  • Do share stories
  • Do turn off cell phone
  • Do follow up regarding any additional information requested
  • Do send thank you email

Melissa Long, CTRS, DPG
Older Adult Section Co-Chair

Exciting Field Work Experience!

Hi y’all! My name is Abigail Peterson and I am a freshman at Oklahoma State University. I got a fantastic opportunity this year to work in OSU’s Child Development Lab (CDL) on campus with one of the recreational therapy faculty members. Here’s a little more detail about what I do, and why I do it!

What do we do? Twice a week, myself and the other students go to the CDL and work individually with three children. For approximately 20 minutes, we provide therapeutic activities one-on-one with our children. At the beginning of the school year, we conducted assessments and, based on that, decided on goals and objectives for the therapy sessions. During the fall semester, I worked with a young boy who has Down syndrome and this semester I am working with a little girl who has Cerebral Palsy. The differences between the two children are astounding and having to completely switch gears has been a little difficult, but the decision to switch children was for the best.

What does a typical session look like? There really is no such thing as a typical session, but once we get to the CDL we empty out the therapy room of distractions and chat a little bit about the activities we have planned for the day, or what we specifically want to focus on improving during the session. Occasionally we will pilfer through the toys and activities in the therapy room, looking for new ways to use them. Once the time comes, we each go get our child from their classrooms and ask their teachers how their days’ have been so we have an idea of what to expect affectively from each child. The child I work with typically is bright affectively and has very few bad days. I chat with my child between the classroom and the therapy room to see for myself how she is doing. Once we get to the therapy room, we do activities for about 20 minutes and then I walk my child back to her classroom; once there, I let her teacher know how she did. After the session, myself and the other student therapists speak with the faculty member about how our sessions went and what we may want to work on for the next session. Outside of the therapy sessions, I typically browse Pinterest and the internet to find some fun ideas for the next session.

Why did I decide to do this? I was chosen to be a member of the Freshman Research Scholar program at OSU in which we find a faculty mentor and kind of piggyback off their research to present our own findings. After meeting with a few other Recreational Therapy faculty members, I knew I wanted to work with the children in the CDL. For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with kids in different settings and know that that is what I want to do in my career. I absolutely adore the attitude and perspective that kids have. They make everything so entertaining and most of them are incredibly sweet. I am so glad that I got the opportunity to work in the CDL, so early in my college career, and any possibly that I can continue to do so in the future. Working with the kids in the CDL has not only grown my passion for Recreational Therapy, but also has helped me to grow as an individual; I’ve had to grow my patience as well as my discipline throughout this experience.

What have I learned so far? Switching children at the beginning of this semester has definitely presented a bit of a learning curve for me. In the fall semester, I had to be more stern and disciplinary as one of my objectives was to work on following directions and attention span, as the child had cognitive as well as physical disabilities. Now, with the child with cerebral palsy, I have to work on my patience and be more verbally encouraging as her disabilities are mainly physical. The child with cerebral palsy is much more talkative than the child with Down syndrome was though she sometimes has trouble articulating. With both children, it is easy to tell when they get frustrated as they tend to shut down, typical of all children. Working with the children has introduced me to recreational therapy early in my career in a way that many classes never could; because of this, I know that I truly enjoy the field. I have also learned how to look at many activities and automatically think of ways to adapt them for the child I work with. This is not to say that I automatically know how to adapt them (I have a long ways to go), but I am able to email or ask my faculty mentor her opinions on how to adapt things as well.

Overall, this experience has been great. Working with the children and really seeing Recreational Therapy in action while still being a student is a priceless experience. I’m looking forward to continuing in recreational therapy and being able to help people every day in my career. I know that by the end of this semester, my passion will have only grown and my knowledge base going into the future is much wider than I would have thought possible at this point in time.

Schools Section Survey


All Schools Section Members,

We need your input!  Please participate in the following Survey Monkey survey.  As mentioned in our last blog post, the survey focuses on top modalities of practice in the school setting, and determining dates/times for an Open Mic Night.

Please fill out the survey at the following link:

It will only take a few minutes!

Thank you ☺

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Heidi Hunter or Tom House at

International Recreational Therapy Month and Call for Papers


Many of us continue to work hard at providing services to our students and schools that we work for.  It is the spring semester and it’s almost Valentine’s Day!  Let me share with you some updated information regarding the ATRA Schools Section.

  • Fellow Recreation Therapists, February is International RT month.  So, let’s all celebrate the great opportunities we have as Recreation Therapists.  If you have any special ways you are celebrating RT month, please share with the rest of us.
  • The Annual Conference is right around the corner in Orlando, Florida.  The call for papers deadline is fast approaching.  February 20th is the deadline!  We have had great representation at our last couple conferences, and want to continue that trend.  So many of you have incredible experiences and information to share.  Please take this opportunity to present a presentation proposal and help support the growth of RT in the schools.  We Need You!
  • ATRA is encouraging students to visit the ATRA Student Facebook page.  It’s a great way to connect, network and gain resources.  Here’s the link:
  • We want you to be on the lookout for a Schools Section Survey from Survey Monkey.  The focus is on identifying top modalities of practice in you setting and proposals for dates/times of an upcoming Open Mic Night (this is opportunity to share ideas and resources we all use).  It will only take a few minutes to fill out.

So, join in these opportunities to share and make a difference!  If you have any questions, feel free to contact Heidi Hunter or Tom House at

International Recreational Therapy Month

By: Heather Andersen, EdD, CTRS

Happy Recreational Therapy month! Recreation therapy is sometimes a hidden gem among service professions. Recreation Therapy began after World War II and has continued to grow with the advancement of the profession. Recreation Therapy can be defined as, “a treatment service designed to restore, remediate and rehabilitate a person’s level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness as well as reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations by an illness or disabling condition (American Therapeutic Recreation Association, 2014).” There are many benefits of recreation and leisure including physical, cognitive, social and health benefits. There are 30,000 plus therapeutic recreation professionals with over 15,000 active Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (NCTRC, 2016). Recreation therapists can work in a variety of settings from community recreation, clinical, schools, with veterans, to correctional facilities. For more information on becoming a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, visit the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification.

Where Can You Earn a Degree?
There are over 50 colleges and universities where you can earn a degree in recreation therapy, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level. For a list of schools, visit the ATRA page.

Event Highlights
February is International Recreational Therapy month! There are many celebrations and educational events going on this month to celebrate, advocate, and educate about the benefits of and what recreation therapists do. Below are a few event highlights.

Florida International University
Florida International University Recreation Club’s events held two events earlier this month. One was a social connected to the school’s alumni week. FIU alum returned to campus to network with current students in their respectful field. The second event was a modified bean bag toss for any student to play for a prize. The Recreation Therapy club is hoping to hold a social media campaign along with a photo contest using the hashtag, #IamAfutureRT. You can find out more or follow the club on their social media pages:

Texas Recreation Therapists Meet at the Capital
On February 22nd from 10:30a.m to 3:30p.m., recreation therapists from across Texas will be gathering at the capital in Austin to advocate for the profession. If you are planning on attending, please email the names of your state Representative and Senator to
You find your representatives by going here. The group will be meeting online on Thursday 2/16/17 which if interested you can request to join the Texas CTRS Network Facebook group. They will be hosting an online Q&A session regarding the event.

Georgia Southern University
Georgia Southern University’s Student Therapeutic Recreation Association planned and implemented an informational wheelchair scavenger hunt in the student union; those who participated could win gummy snacks with recreation therapy facts on them. The student association also had a booth with additional information.


Research has become a hot topic for the field of Therapeutic Recreation.  Research is important for our profession, if we want it to continue to grow and show the importance of our work.  Research also translates into EBP, or Evidence-Based Practice.  Even as a student you can start to brainstorm research ideas or topics.  Many internship sites want you to create a special project during your internship, starting a research proposal for their facility would be a great asset to not only that department but the entire Therapeutic Recreation field.  Research topics vary; check out the Therapeutic Recreation Directory link for some research studies related to Therapeutic Recreation.

Therapeutic Recreation Directory
Therapeutic Recreation Journal

december blog

Recreational Therapy in Action 

My visit to Brooks Rehabilitation Center in Jacksonville, Florida was AMAZING. The facility is beautiful and all of the staff were so welcoming. But by far the best aspect of my visit was getting to sit in on a co-treatment with Recreational Therapy and Speech Therapy. It was so beneficial to see how the interventions are tailored to help each client reach their goals.

Recreational Therapy is the purposeful use of recreation and activity interventions to improve a client’s functioning in the 6 domains:







The patient I got to work with was Trey* and our activity was playing Uno. If you know me personally, you know that I have an obsession with board and card games, so when Maddie, the CTRS, asked if some people would like to play, I happily joined in. The domains this intervention focused on were physical, social, cognitive, and leisure.

The physical aspect of this activity that benefited Trey was working on fine motor skills. Trey had to use his fine motor skills to pick up the cards and either place them down or draw when it was his turn. Trey had difficulty pinching his fingers together to pick up the cards. Uno allowed him to practice these fine motor skills in a safe environment and have fun at the same time.

The social aspect of the intervention was Trey interacting with not only his therapists, but also the students who were playing Uno with him. It required Trey to multitask on the game and holding appropriate and relevant conversation with his peers. These social skills are ones that will allow Trey to participate in recreation and social opportunities outside of treatment in his everyday life.

The cognitive aspects of the game were the most important for Trey. Uno required him to match cards by color and number and understand when it was appropriate to play each card. In addition, whenever draw four or draw two cards were played Trey had to count the number of cards he needed. The cognitive aspects that were most beneficial to Trey were understanding sequences and attention to task. Trey would often skip others and attempt to play cards as if it were his turn. Uno required him to keep track of whose turn was next with the added challenge of reverse cards changing the sequence. Attention to task was difficult for Trey. He would often zone out and get distracted talking about other things instead of paying attention to the game. The therapists would work on getting him to refocus his attention to the game.

Lastly, the intervention gave Trey a new game to play during his leisure time. Trey can play Uno with his parents or friends in his free time. Having Uno as a leisure opportunity allows Trey to work on his functional domains when his having fun! Uno is an enjoyable game to play in your spare time, but Trey will continue to work on his progress while playing.

It was so rewarding to see Recreational Therapy in action at Brooks Rehabilitation Center. Every time I interact with clients, I am more fired up about my future profession. Experiential learning gives me the opportunity to constantly reaffirm my passion for Recreational Therapy. I cannot wait to design interventions for my clients in the future.

*Name changed to protect client’s privacy*

Mild Cognitive Impairment: What is it and how can we contribute?

Per the Mayo Clinic:

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more-serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.

If you have mild cognitive impairment, you may be aware that your memory or mental function has “slipped.” Your family and close friends also may notice a change. But generally these changes aren’t severe enough to significantly interfere with your day-to-day life and usual activities.

Mild cognitive impairment may increase your risk of later progressing to dementia, caused by Alzheimer’s disease or other neurological conditions. But some people with mild cognitive impairment never get worse, and a few eventually get better.

Individuals with dementia still need to meet the basic needs of physical and cognitive engagement. Non pharmacological approaches are the best treatment to start with. That is where we as therapists come into the equation. Without engagement it can lead to many of the behaviors we witness on a daily basis. Bringing in initialized patient centered care leads to improved quality of life. Please read below for more details into Recreational Activities to Reduce Behavioral Symptoms in Dementia:

With mild cognitive impairment it is important to promote independence, engagement with meaning, and positive interaction.

Interventions for promoting independence



ADL skill training

Activity planning

Assistive technology

Adaptive aids (including low-level technology) and environmental modifications


Exercise/promoting mobility

Rehabilitation programs for people with dementia

Combining interventions