Autism is a cognitive disorder that occurs during children's development (O'Brien, 2010). This condition starts during the early developmental phase of children. In the world today, two out of two thousand children born have this condition. Male children are more affected than their female counterparts with this preference in men being thrice the number of female Children. The cause of this disorder cannot be pinpointed but there is sufficient scientific evidence to associate it with genetics.
This cognitive developmental disorder mainly affects the areas of the brain that are associated with social communication and interactive behavior. The significant limitation in forming the social association and also the limitation in the non-verbal form of communication are some of the challenges autistic people have to grapple with on daily basis. These people have marked limitations in the development and use of intangible impressions which are very crucial components of effective communication. Autistic people also exhibit monotonous and insufficient patterns of actions and struggle greatly with insignificant variations in their environment. For this reason, it can be seen that autistic people need assistance in order to live a normal life.
Therapeutic recreation is seen as a vocation of assisting autistic children to have a better quality of life through boosting their abilities and overcoming their limitations. The specialists that offer these services to autistic people are referred to as recreational therapists (NASPA Journal, 2004). They carefully evaluate the individuals' abilities and use them to better the quality of life which they lead (autistic people). Therapists empower autistic people to boost and uplift their capabilities to achieve independence and hence achieve increased quality of their life. Recreational therapists conduct a thorough assessment to respond appropriately to the unique needs of each person. This enables them to formulate objectives and select the range of recreational activities and procedures required by each person to function in the most independent way in the society. This approach utilizes strengths and weakness of each individual. Therapeutic recreation can be availed to autistic people in a wide range of places such as children development centers, hospitals, specialized camps or even people's residences.
Therapists seek to restore normal body functions of all organs in order to reduce the negative effects of disability in people with various forms of incapacities. These services are provided by the professionals who are registered, well trained and certified according to various certifying agencies.
The services given by the recreational therapist to autistic people varies according to each individual's needs, strengths and limitations. One of these includes the aquatic therapy. As the name suggests, this involves water as is done in a swimming pool. This method has high levels of success and the response time is reduced. It has been known that many autistic children usually have the inconsistent reaction with various stimuli such as texture. Most of them either under react or overreact to stimuli. Putting such children in water provides hydrostatic pressure that helps to calm them by availing physicalstimuli (Nakanishi, 1999).This has been found to be essential in correcting movements which are essential in children's play. The research has also found out that aquatic therapy is beneficial in regulating a wide range and extent of movement.
Aquatic therapy also aids autistic people in the development of the sensory system as it makes the neurons and the brains more responsive and accurate. The overall effect of aquatic therapy is enhanced balance and improved movement in autistic children.
The second important service given by the recreational therapist is the gymnastics. These therapists are trained to coach autistic children in the exercises that respond to the unique needs which each child has. In gymnastics, the coaches provide the environment and also engage them in exercises aimed at specific neurons. Motor and sensory neurons develop and this helps children better control their behavior. Basic skills such as focusing, getting and following instructions and enhanced balance are developed further. This helps them to develop well and achieve abilities close to normal children.
A third service offered by the recreational therapist are the exercises referred to as horseback riding. Riding on a horse back creates a rhythm that has been found to be soothing to autistic people. This rhythm has been found to have a direct effect over emotional overreaction. Autistic children during and after administration of this procedure remain calm even against stimuli they previously overreacted to.
One must be well versed in the art and science of recreational therapy to be able to offer these services effectively (Coffey & Wiener, 1967). Additionally, one must be able to understand autistic people well. This is because autistic children have behaviors that differ significantly from other children. Such behaviors as rocking chairs or repetitive speech can be considered as annoying especially to people who are not well versed. Their overreaction to stimuli and limitations in forming social communication has been pointed out as the biggest challenge that has to be overcome. Autistic children also have problems learning how to balance and walk. Knowledge, skills, abilities and specialized training are needed to practice therapeutic recreation and achieve the desired results. This means that a person dealing with autistic children must possess high levels of patience.
Recreational therapy as a vocation has theories and principles of practice that govern it. Various scientific principles are applied in the practical step-by-step procedures to achieve the desired results. In addition, due to the complicated nature of human beings, aspects of a society such as culture, religion, political and economic factors are also considered. The recreational therapists must understand the society that is receiving their services. This helps them to work out a multi-spectral formula to achieve the greatest impact in the shortest time possible.
The specific aspects that are of particular importance are seen as the scientific, technical part and the community aspect (Schreibman, 2005). These specialists are trained to incorporate the therapeutic recreation procedures into the normal levels of the community's recreation. This specialist must also possess the capability to work with people with either physical or mental disabilities. The recreational therapists have to exercise high levels of creativity. This is because the various therapeutic principles have to be structured and incorporated into programs of various target groups which could range in age from children to adults.
The recreational therapists have instilled in themselves good interpersonal and communication skills. They are trained to communicate effectively either orally or in written form. This is because they have to work closely with various professionals in their field as well as the clients. They must be able to communicate well between themselves as well as with people receiving their services. In their work, they must be able to supervise their juniors and also receive instructions clearly from their seniors in an organizational setup.
The recreational therapist must possess impeccable management skills. Their profession requires critical time management skills as they work with strict deadlines as their therapeutic procedures are time bound. They must also manage their programs in various phases such as effective implementation. In most cases, they have to operate within a fixed financial budget. Their training takes care of this as they are trained in financial planning in their situation. They can effectively budget for financial resources they have to obtain the maximum returns (Ostlund, 2000).
There are various academic requirements that are necessary for one to practice as a recreational therapist. A minimum of a degree and successful conclusion of a college education is expected of anyone willing to practice in this field. Courses that give wide knowledge in sociology, recreational science, human service and human psychology which must be acquired from an accredited university are required. In addition, the wide experience is considered of primary importance; in most cases, not less than five years of hands on experience is required in related fields. Experience in community recreation work is required as it is very essential.
There are various hazards that are found in the environment of recreational therapists as they give their services to autistic people. These challenges are specific to this environment. Some of them occur as accidents while others occur as body's overreaction to continued overexposure to various stimuli.
These specialists in most cases find a need to move various equipment utilized in their work from one space to the other. This makes them to be constantly carrying heavy loads and moving them from one point to the other (Summerfield et. el, 1991). This causes lower back discomforts that are caused by the muscle skeletal strain. Additionally, their profession requires them to remain standing for long hours which causes high levels of fatigue. Another special kind of risk that some recreational therapists expose themselves to is increased the risk of road accidents as most of them spend a large proportion of their day driving to see the patients. They visit various people either at home or in various hospitals within their day.
This profession also involves construction and assembly of various equipment to be utilized by their patients. Consequently, various chemicals are utilized in these procedures and a percentage of these chemicals may end up in the bodies of recreational therapists. For example, spray paint that may be used and sometimes the polishes are inhaled by them. Finally, some recreational therapists work in large firms where there is a large-scale assembly of equipment. In these processes, a large amount of noise is produced which may end up affecting them.
Specific challenges are unique to these settings due to the nature of the environment in which autistic people live. For instance, due to their limitation in movement, autistic people live in conditions were there have to be very finely polished floors with minimum obstacles to walking. This becomes hazardous to the recreational therapists who in most cases carry equipment and these patients in this environment. This leads to slippage and falling and hence physical injury.
Another challenge that is very common in this environment includes exposure to the electric current. This happens due to the handling and operation of a multitude of electric equipment. Their occupation also calls for unpacking and activities that produce the high level of static electricity. This leads to exposure of these practitioners to static electricity (Bright & East Carolina University, 2009).
The environment of autistic children may have a wide range of solvents. This is especially true when they are in a hospital or any other form of camps. Detergents are utilized to keep their environment clean and aseptic. Degreasers and glues are utilized for various purposes. These chemicals produce undesirable vapors as some of them are toxic. In the same environment, there are mechanical actions such as such as cutting, polishing and drilling that produce dust. Various forms of aerosols are also utilized. All these chemicals become a hazard to the recreational therapists given that they spend a significant amount of time in this environment.
In an environment with a large population of people, the concentration of microorganisms may increase. Additionally, many recreational therapists attending to autistic people find themselves giving their services to hospitalized patients. In hospitals, there is a large concentration of infectious fungi, bacteria and viruses. The recreational therapist comes into contact with patients and various objects that are utilized by the patients very often. In the process, they pick some of these pathogenic microorganisms.
Posture is very important in the work productivity. One has to adopt the right posture in order to achieve high productivity. The ergonomic posture of recreational therapists may cause many problems. This is because it causes strain in the lower part of the back. Their occupation as seen earlier involves lifting people and equipment which causes muscle skeletal strain.
To conclude, the occupation of the recreational therapists results to physical and psychological stress caused by their unique work place. Another great contributor of stress is the consistent and curious relatives of the patients. These relatives in many times become curious and inquisitive which increases the challenges of the recreational therapists.
NCTRC (National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification) is the nonprofit organization that works to ensure fair play and high quality services to the public. It is an international organization which ensures that the recreational therapists are trained and it provides the highest standards of services to their clients. It achieves this through certifying the therapist who has attained the required professional standards (Thompson, 2007).
This organization was established in 1981 and works to ensure excellence that is achieved in the services that are received by the members of the public. Each and every therapist has to be certified after the professional recognition. According to this organization, each must attain the minimum professional requirements. By ensuring that each professional is well trained, the consumer can receive the highest level of services. This organization is very keen and ensures quality human services whenever possible and the highest attainable health standards.
Certification alone in an environment with many players can be compromised. This is taking care in the work environment of the recreational therapists by the presence of an independent body that verifies the credentials given to each specialist by NCTRC. CARF, that is, Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities in association with a joint commission are the organizations that ensure that credentials given to health care agencies and individual specialists are authentic. These services are given under the direction of NCTRC and they aim to follow up the degree of compliance to the standards of practitioners' profession (Batshaw, 2007).
The board of NCTRC is comprised of professionals who are nominated by keenly certified experts. Additionally, the employers and the consumers are also represented in this board that is made up of nine directors. This certifying agency has to be certified in order to standardize services it delivers to individuals and organizations. This is achieved by ensuring that the organization is accredited. This organization is accredited by NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies). NCTRC is also a charter member of ICE (Institute of Credentialing Excellence)
Among the current trends that have come in the treatment of autism is the diversification of recreational therapy to suit people with autism in a better way. A good example of new activities which has been included in the recreational therapy for autistic children is the music therapy. This intervention is included in the therapy program when a child is young and has helped to improve the results. People with autism are now involved more closely in the therapy programs as a way of incorporating their mental input into the process. This has also boosted the results obtained.
Since the prevalence of autism is around one in every 2000 children borne, the number of the recreational therapists to deal with this problem should approach this number. This is currently not the case as there are far more people with autism than the recreational therapists for autistic people. To ease this problem, some families are choosing to receive advice from the therapists and conduct the procedure themselves with the supervision of the therapists.