July 9, 2015

Today was our second class of our Therapeutic Recreation in Outdoor Settings. We began this class with a visit from the Therapeutic Dog Program – St. John Ambulance. This is a program which I was fairly familiar with as I have tried in my past as the Program Coordinator for the Town of Holyrood to have for a Wellness Sessions – Forever Young Program to visit, unfortunately due to time restrains and availability on our behalf we were unable to offer this at the present time. Once the dogs were brought into the room one could simply feel the level of stress from all classmates alleviate and automatically people gravitated towards the animals and often hear people saw “awh” and other such words. The Therapy Dog Program requires both the volunteer as well the animal to undergo extensive screening to ensure that both are suitable for the program. It was evident that dog and parent both wreak the benefits from this program just as much as the people that this is geared towards. During the visit the volunteers spoke about their experiences during visits in particular with the children. The power of presence is something I am a firm believer in.

Linda Buzzell is an eco therapist and she explains how therapy is primarily interested in human to human interaction whereas Ecotherapy goes far beyond that and asks how much human to nature time you get, how much time do you spend with animals. Buzzell goes on to say “I ask not only who your loved ones, parents and ancestors are, but where they were born, and where they live. What role does nature play in their lives and yours? Are there animals in your life? (p. 49, 2009)”. I feel throughout my future professional life as a CTRS I would utilize animal therapy as a tool, not only for the clients as well co-workers. I feel therapeutic recreation tools can extend as well to others that work at the hospital to ensure that their day and experience is improved. A happy and health teams ensures for quality overall. On a personal note, since a child we had an Irish Sitter – King, he was not in my life for long as he was older when I was born. When I was approximately in grade two we then decided to get another dog, this time we decided on an English Springer Spaniel – Nickolas. His dog was like my brother to me, he was always there when I returned home from school or to when I would wake up in the morning to him asleep next to me on my bed. Unfortunately three years ago Nickolas passed away, losing him was one of the hardest things I feel I have went threw. Death to me is something that I have been used to, we frequently I would have to attend funerals, for me this was a hard hit. The months after his death, the house was so quiet I will never forget this. As would did not hear Nick walking around the house or hear him attempt at what we would call speaking to us (no, we are not crazy people).

Once our visit from the Therapy Dog Program – St. John Ambulance was finished we then made our way to the Elaine Dobbin – Centre for Autism. Once we arrived Megan Marshall – Transitions Program Coordinator welcomed us then showed us a video about the Society. From this point, we then made our way to our tour of the grounds around the centre. During the tour you could feel Marshall’s passion and intrinsic motivation for her work, she explained how all gardens are used and how the Chief from the Pantry (in-house restaurant at the centre). In addition Megan, took us on a tour of the facilities corporate garden plots, with a price of under five hundred dollars – this price I found to be very reasonable for a corporate plot. The benefit of these plots is what is grown the organization that owns the plot can take or this can be donated to the centre.

The side of corporate sponsors are an amazing and key part in Non-Profit organizations, from my role with the Manuels River – Manuels River Experience I have grown the understand that this is a key role in operations and funding for programs and further continuation of the facility and grounds. Once our tour had concluded we moved into our lunch portion, where we ate at the Pantry – the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism Restaurant. The meal was tasteful, fresh, and appropriately priced with the benefits that all proceeds go towards the centre. I would recommend this to further people. Once we finished at the Centre we made our way to the Husky Energy – Easter Seals House for our adaptive rock climbing. Myself, I have never been a fan of heights as simply I view this as not necessary for me to complete. Our afternoon was filled of learning the skills of belaying in rock climbing. This was my first time belaying as well rock climbing and needless to say I was thrilled (sarcastic), after a significant amount of self-confidence boosting I decided to climb. Stacy was the belayer and Sarah the grounder to ensure when I come down I would not take Stacy off of her feet. For me personally, I did not mind belaying as time went on I felt that I became confortable with rock climbing. I feel this is an activity that will require me to practice, and overtime it would grow on me. On a personal note, I was happy that I made it over the halfway mark on the wall this to me was achievement.

I would use rock climbing as a therapeutic tool, only if the practitioner was confortable with the risk of this activity and you felt the client was able to complete the task within a manageable challenge level. The first step would be to ensure that the goal that you have set for rock climbing is realistic with your client. If the person has stated that they have no interest in rock climbing and that’s what you take them to do, then the level of interest may not be there, as the client will potentially experience leisure boredom. In saying this I found an interesting website that is written by a mother whom is an Occupational Therapist(http://mamaot.com/2015/06/17/therapeutic-benefits-of-rock-climbing/)Has stated rock climbing has various therapeutic benefits such as strengthening and endurance, cognitive skills, problem solving, visual skills, and confidence. Buzzell explains “to be mentally healthy, we must find ways of rebonding without local human tribe in the context of a wider natural habitat that includes human, plant, and animal companions (p. 52, 2009)”.

Overall I felt accomplished today, I have experience and placed myself out of my comfort zone and taken risks. These are objective each day I work towards to improve.

Ryan Lawlor

Sources:

Buzzell, L., & Chalquist, C. (Eds.). (2009). Ecotherapy: Healing with nature in mind. Sierra Club Book: San Francisco, CA

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