Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Shift in Inclusive Recreation Profession: Inclusion into the Community Setting Is No Longer for Specialists Anymore

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Shift in Inclusive Recreation Profession: Inclusion into the Community Setting Is No Longer for Specialists Anymore

Article excerpt

There has been a change and/or shift in the traditional paradigm of local park and recreation services and the agencies that provide them to their respective communities. More sophisticated customers, technology and the ongoing trend toward immediate gratification has broken down the levels of bureaucracy of the public sector. Agencies and their leaders must react in a manner more affiliated with the private/corporate sector. This change/shift has also affected the operations of special recreation agencies in the same ways.

The shift I experienced within the public recreation sector has been extraordinary, from the standpoint that public recreation agencies have become more in line with operating a private sector business rather than a traditional, tax-supported entity. The tightened budgets, demands on the public system and levels of expected programs and services have forced this issue to the leaders and elected officials of our public system.

The shift within the public sector of inclusive recreation professionals is also moving and evolving. Inclusive recreation professionals help a child or adult mainstream into society through programming specially designed to fit their needs. This service is usually provided by a park and recreation department geared toward including all persons with disabilities into their communities. But the role of the inclusive recreation professional is changing. Those aforementioned items that have influenced and forced the hand of the public system in parks and recreation have also affected the inclusion arena as well.

In the public park and recreation profession, we see the inclusion of nontraditional job positions and disciplines that were not seen a decade before. Marketing, public relations, occupational safety, human resources and technology managers were either park and recreational professionals taking on these roles as an added portion of mashed potatoes on their proverbial plate, or outsourced by the agency by professionals that were looking for ways to expand their customer base by including public sector employers.

Moreover, the therapeutic recreation specialist has streamlined into the public recreation system, showing the ability to adapt and acknowledge the importance of understanding the public recreation system and how it can be effective to the profession. These specialists have been educated, trained and even have an extensive professional certification program in place to ensure the long-term viability and high standards of service in their respective disciplines. Many certified therapeutic recreation colleagues have also earned their Certified Park and Recreation Professional designation as a commitment to this premise.

The shift toward true inclusion within the public sector is alive, well and moving with the times. Just look at the evolution and popularity of the National Institute of Recreation Inclusion (NIRI) and other prevalent regional and local workshops and conferences on inclusion. The public is more aware of this and, as a profession, the same premise and commitment from the therapeutic discipline needs to be mirrored and enhanced from the public recreation side.

In Illinois, we continue to experience a large percentage of senior leaders retiring to enjoy their leisure time. …

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