Recreational Therapies


Recreational therapy is a general term used to describe the practice of using leisure activities as therapeutic interventions.  Such therapies provide opportunities for supporting and enhancing communication and social and motor activities, and may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Aquatic Therapy - The use of water and specifically designed activities to help restore, maintain, and increase function.  Aquatic/swimming therapy focuses on therapeutic play activities that improve range of motion and increase balance, endurance, and body awareness. Swimming provides movement that can help enhance motor planning. Water pressure can be soothing and calming for individuals with ASD.   More information at Aquatice Resources Network.

Art Therapy - This is an established profession that uses the creative process of art to improve  and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages.  It can increase fine-motor, visual motor, visual perception skills, organization, planning,  and artistic expression.  More information at American Art Therapy Association, Inc. and the Autism Society of America.

Music Therapy - The prescribed use of music and musical interventions to work towards specific therapeutic goals and objectives. Goal areas include communication, academic, motor, emotional, and social skills. Music therapy can also have a positive effect on self-esteem and reduce anxiety while developing appropriate expression of emotions.    

Music is a nonverbal form of communication. It is a natural reinforcer – it is immediate in time and provides motivation for practicing nonmusical skills. Parallel music activities are designed to support the objectives of the child as observed by the therapist or as indicated by a parent, teacher, or other professional. A music therapist might observe the child’s need to socially interact with others. Musical games like passing a ball back and forth to music or playing sticks and cymbals with another person might be used to foster such interaction. Eye contact might be encouraged with imitating clapping games near the eyes. Preferred music may be used contingently for a wide variety of cooperative social behaviors like staying in a chair or remaining with a group of children in a circle.

More information at American Music Therapy Association, Inc.

Therapeutic Horseback Riding - Hippotherapy, or therapeutic horseback riding, uses horses as a source of treatment to improve balance, posture, and mobility. It can also improve the cognitive, behavioral, and communication functions of individuals of all ages. Riding enables an individual to participate in an enjoyable activity while increasing attention span, independence, and self-esteem. While learning from the horse, riders often bond with the horse as well as the other riders, thus providing a good foundation on which to build relationships with others.  More information at American Hippotherapy Association, andProfessional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.).

Other possibilities for recreational therapies include tumbling/dance, camping, 4H, animal therapy, peer play groups, community sports activities, swimming/aquatics, yoga, martial arts, and tae kwon do.

When deciding on recreational therapies, the child’s needs and interests must be considered.