Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Purpose, Passion, Progress: Celebrating 40 Years of NTRS

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Purpose, Passion, Progress: Celebrating 40 Years of NTRS

Article excerpt

It's 1966. Gasoline is selling for 32 cents a gallon and a U.S. postage stamp cost a nickel. In the midst of protests of the Vietnam War and civil rights unrest in many cities, Star Trek debuts, disposable diapers hit the scene, mini skirts are "hip" and many of us are California Dreamin' in our Yellow Submarine. Amid this backdrop, the National Therapeutic Recreation Society (NTRS) emerged as a branch of NRPA.

2006 marks the 40th birthday of NTRS. The merger in 1965, which formed NRPA, included two groups concerned with therapeutic recreation (TR)--the National Association of Recreational Therapists (NART) and the Hospital Recreation Section of the American Recreation Society (ARS-HRS). These organizations put aside their philosophical differences--and voted to merge. These early therapeutic recreation specialists shared a common concern with the inhumane treatment of individuals with disabilities and the right of these individuals to participate in the full gamut of recreation and leisure experiences.

NTRS has been a major catalyst and participant in many of the professional milestones of TR's history. Such milestones illuminate the phenomenal growth and development of the field and its emergence as a recognized and important service. In the mid-sixties though, TR was not widely known.

Nancy Taback was a high school student in 1966 and her story is typical of many who were discovering the field at that time. Taback's story--developmental exposure to persons with disabilities, a passion for activity leadership, and a lifelong service commitment--characterize the experience of many who have found their calling in TR.

"In 1965 I babysat for a family who had a child with Down syndrome and I had a connection with him that his mother recognized in the first visit," she recounts. The mother told her that she thought her child had a developmental disability and that perhaps Taback should consider working with children with disabilities when she got older. This motivated her. She says, "I spent my senior year in high school volunteering at the St. Louis State School and Hospital, playing with the residents." After entering the University of Missouri in 1968, Taback says she met Dr. Ethel Scott and was introduced to Therapeutic Recreation, an association that she says caused her to be proud. "After 34 years in the field, I'm still proud!"

TR in the late 1960s focused on persons, not prescriptions. Are participants having fun? Are they participating in the same types of activities as their peers without disabilities? These were the commonly identified concerns in reviewing program materials of the time.

The ensuing decades witnessed historical legislation concerning public access, education, jobs and living arrangements for persons with disabilities. Budgets supporting people with disabilities grew and were then "reconciled." The 2006-2007 edition of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook reported that the majority of today's therapeutic recreation specialists work in nursing homes and hospitals. Others work in state and local government agencies and in community-based programs for older adults, including assisted-living facilities.

The rest of the field works primarily in residential mental retardation, mental health and substance abuse facilities; individual and family services; federal government agencies; educational services; and outpatient care centers. A small but growing number of therapists are self-employed, generally contracting with long-term care facilities or community agencies to develop and oversee programs.

The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) reported that hospitals continue to represent the largest employment setting with 42 percent of all therapists working in hospitals. The Council reported that there are 38,000 TR professionals in the U.S., with the majority (61 percent) providing services to adults who are older or who have psychiatric diagnoses. …

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