Skip to navigation

What we're up to

news News Monday, February 11, 2019 Monday, February 11, 2019 12:26 PM - Monday, February 11, 2019 12:26 PM

Benefits of play celebrated during National Recreational Therapy Month

Finding time for recreation helps patients get more out of their care

Benefits of play celebrated during National Recreational Therapy Month

Recreational therapy plays an important role in the care that our patients receive at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia. February is National Recreational Therapy Month, and all month long we are celebrating the impact of recreation on a patient’s social, physical, cognitive and psychological development.

A part of our rehabilitation department, recreational therapy aims to utilize play and other activity-based interventions to address the needs of our patients as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being.

At the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital, recreational therapy programs include community outings, pet therapy, cooking and baking, arts and crafts, aquatics and adaptive sports.

“For each patient, we start with a formal assessment,” said Mary Ann Roberto, recreational therapist at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia. “It could include an observation, a conversation, a survey or a combination. We want to learn what their leisure interests are so we can help them participate in those recreational activities as independently as possible.”

For many of our patients, the circumstances that brought them into our care can be life-changing. Some patients may spend an extended time in our hospital, isolated from their home routine and support system. Others may transition to using a wheelchair or prosthetic, and need to adapt to a new way of participation in recreational activities.

The role of recreational therapy is to find options for recreation and enjoyment for each patient based on their specific interests. “If a patient wanted to pursue wheelchair sports, we would work with them to find resources in their own community, whether it’s joining a team, trying out equipment or working out with someone who plays the sport,” said Roberto.

While patients’ medical needs are the primary concern of our clinical staff during their visits, recreational therapy can help to ensure that patients are getting the most out of their clinical care.

“As adults, if we don’t have opportunities to do things we enjoy, how do we recharge?” said Roberto. She explains that the same idea applies to our pediatric patients. “For kids and teens, their way of learning is through play. And when their routine is disrupted because of a hospital stay, we need to keep them on track with what’s important to them. And often times, it’s playing with their friends and socializing with peers that can support them.”

As Roberto works to provide patients with the resources to participate in recreation once they are discharged, it is just as important to ensure that patients are in the right mindset during their hospital stay.

At the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital, the recreational therapy and child life departments work closely together, pairing psychosocial aspects, like adjustment and coping strategies, with adaptive activities and opportunities for participation.

“Our physical and occupational therapists are wonderful and they make therapy so fun for patients, but play still has to be on a patient’s own terms,” said Roberto. “We may plan fun activities and we’ll extend the invitation to a patient, but they can say no to us. They get to choose what to participate in and that gives them a sense of control.” When patients feel a sense of control over one aspect of their participation, they are more likely to cooperate with the clinical aspects of their care.

“Play is what’s going to help them do all those medical tasks that are expected of them,” said Roberto. “It’s a way for them to cope with being here and maintain normalcy, and recreational therapists are the link to that.”

Female patient cooking