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Are Students Impacting Recreation Therapy?

Yes. But only as much as we think we are. I think it’s easy to become apathetic towards your education when you’re assigned busy work that serves no other purpose than to fluff your end-of-semester grade, or when you’re learning about concepts that might as well be ancient hieroglyphics. It happens when your professor obviously isn’t excited about what they’re teaching and neither they nor your classmates want to be in class that day. It’s also easy when “no one else” cares, or when you realize that you can’t see yourself in the field you’ve chosen and then you begin questioning every decision you’ve ever made, but you’ve also come too far to just leave, so the lottery is sounding more and more like a viable option.

Maybe that escalated a little quickly, but odds are, this has happened to you or, if you’re that person who had everything mapped out by the time you could walk, someone you know.

How do you change it?

Make it mean something – whether that’s intrinsically or extrinsically. One of the required classes for recreation therapy (RT) majors is a contemporary issues in RT course. This class has been one of my favorites this semester (as I prove by throwing my two cents in for basically every topic we cover) because we’re talking about events happening now. They’re things like the Affordable Care Act and its impact on healthcare, trends in specialization and international growth for RT, evaluating and reforming education to create more competent therapists, the complicated maze of public policy, and licensure.

Licensure became the semester-long project for the 40 students in Y-470 this fall. Without going into the finer details (some of which I’m still not clear on), licensure is important because it helps protect the people we’re serving; a client should know that if they’re being treated by someone who has a license, they can expect a certain level of care and a certain level of knowledge from that person. It will also allow more people to receive recreation therapy services, because the license will essentially be proof that our practice is legitimate and has produced positive outcomes based on research and evidence based practice.

The task…

For our project, we were told we would be presenting some of the work that graduate students had put together this spring in the form of organized town-hall meetings around Bloomington. At first, I think everyone had flashbacks to T-410 (event planning and management) and we all kind of looked like this:


But then, the first group went. They spoke at the annual state conference for RTI (Recreation Therapists, Indiana) in Terre Haute at the end of October.


They presented to professionals about why licensure is important (something this audience knew about) and details regarding the licensure process (something this audience did not know so much about), and were surprised at how much they were able to teach their possible future peers.

Classmates were also well received when they met with the executive board of Autism Speaks, the Bloomington student-run chapter of the national organization that works to raise awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorder. This group had to tailor their presentation to be applicable to their audience; another factor that makes the project unique is that every group is presenting to a different stakeholder and you have to know how to pitch something that’s meaningful for your particular group.

Does that mean every presentation is going to be a success? Nope. For my own group’s meeting we had secured two amazing guest speakers, a classy high-tech room in the school of Public Health, promoted weeks before, AND had a convenient time. Instead, as we started it kind of looked like this:


These mascots represent my classmates- we’re all required to attend two of these meetings.

So that was disappointing.

BUT, my group had still put some great information together and I know personally, I learned a lot. Those parents who did attend got adapted information that was relevant to them as caregivers of children with disabilities, and our guest speakers had time to answer whatever questions those parents had.

Moving along… 

Two other groups presented meetingduring November: one at a senior living center here in Bloomington and the other at one of the local Boys & Girls Clubs. We then have three more meetings in December. Are the crowds huge? Are we presenting earth-shattering information? Probably not, but we’re gaining experience before throwing ourselves into the real world. As our professor told us, no one has done this before. Students don’t typically get a lot of input on the direction their profession is taking, but in this case, we’re trying to help promote something that could have a big effect on our field. It may not seem like we’re doing anything important when we’re presenting to just a few people, and really, if we don’t think it’s important, that’s an accurate statement. As I said earlier, you can tell when a professor or speaker doesn’t really care about what they’re talking about, and the same goes for us. If we’re half-heartedly talking about this slightly abstract process, nobody else is going to care either.

But what if we can see the bigger picture? This goes for any student – what if in 10 years you realized something you did way back when helped shape something that’s now right in front of you? That may be something as big as recreation therapy licensure in ten more states (trying to be realistic here), or as small as realizing that you understand a research article because of those darn P levels you learned about in stats class. Obviously we can’t care about everything – if we did we couldn’t function, but we can choose what we care about, and invest our time and effort towards that. If I care about recreation therapy and do something about it, I believe I can have an impact on the profession. If any student cares about what they’re doing, and then they do something about it, I think the same thing can happen. It’s all about perspective and interpretation.

eElizabeth Terry is a senior from Yorktown, IN currently completing her bachelor’s degree in Recreation Therapy. While her height hasn’t changed since she was 15, calling Bloomington “home” for the past four years has allowed her to grow in every other aspect of her life. She’s a sarcastic optimist nearly at the end of her undergrad rope that wants to make an impact in people’s lives, but also allow them to impact her.



Categories: Recreation Therapy

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