February is International Recreational Therapy Month. You may be wondering, “What is a recreational therapist, anyway?” The answer is simple: Recreational therapists utilize recreation in creative ways to help improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.
In Fairfax County, Therapeutic Recreation Services (within the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services) supports the philosophy that everyone deserves an opportunity to participate in the leisure programs and activities of their choice. These activities help county residents with physical, developmental, emotional, and/or intellectual disabilities engage in ways that enhance their health, functional abilities, independence, and quality of life.
“We empower individuals to participate in programs that best meet their needs, even as they age or their interests and needs change,” says Program Manager Sandi Dalhoff. “Ultimately, providing this autonomy and choice helps to decrease isolation while increasing socialization and independence. It’s nice to say that we’re part of an agency that supports the whole community.”
NCS Therapeutic Recreation Services consists of 10 full-time staff, most of whom are Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists credentialed by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. Supporting our programs are 100+ part-time staff who share a passion for providing meaningful, even life-changing support to individuals with varying disabilities.
Of being a recreational therapist, Program Manager Sydney Solomon says, “My favorite aspect about therapeutic recreation is being able to work with people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. The opportunities have been endless, and seeing participants do something they never thought possible prior to our programs is the most rewarding part of my job.”
Prior to COVID-19, these programs included in-person adult social clubs, playgroups, swim safety, sports/fitness, and more. Now, Therapeutic Recreation has moved to a virtual platform, hosting a variety of programs via Zoom. These include:
- Preschool Learn & Play, 25-minute interactive sessions designed for children ages 2-5 with or without delays/disabilities (with a parent/caregiver available to co-lead). Register: https://bit.ly/PSLearnPlay.
- Youth Social, a program for school-age participants with disabilities (ages 6-21) full of fun and friends. Register: https://bit.ly/NCSYouthSocial.
- Tone It Up Tuesday, a virtual fitness program that gives adults with disabilities the chance to engage in a wide array of fitness and movement activities. Register: https://bit.ly/NCSTIUT.
- Adult Social Clubs, a virtual version of our traditional social clubs where adults with disabilities can socialize, have fun, and expand their leisure horizons. To register, contact NCS-TRACERS@fairfaxcounty.gov.
In addition to these programs, Therapeutic Recreation practices can be seen throughout the entire agency. NCS as a whole strives to ensure inclusion is practiced throughout all its services. This means taking proactive approaches to ensure the programming provided at all NCS centers is inclusive of individuals of all abilities, from older adults to youth to preschoolers.
Beyond these programs, Neighborhood and Community Services provides a unique therapeutic resource – the Sensory Room at Providence Community Center in Fairfax. This relaxing and calming environment offers a variety of sights, sounds and interactive elements that promote stress-free engagement and physical and intellectual development for people of all ages.
Sensory Room participant and Vienna resident Poornima says, “I started taking my son to the Sensory Room at Providence when he was 16 months old. … The features of the room provided numerous opportunities for self-exploration and growth. My son has benefitted greatly from his experience in different programs at the Sensory Room and at 30 months still enjoys its different features.”
The Sensory Room is currently offering 1:1 sessions during set time slots Monday through Friday. To receive more information and to schedule an appointment, contact the Providence Community Center front desk at 703-865-0520.
Thank you to the entire NCS Therapeutic Recreation Services team for all you do to enhance the lives of Fairfax County residents! Visit the NCS website for more information on Therapeutic Recreation Services.