Municipal recreation leaders' knowledge and perceptions of recreational therapy

Although there is broad research focusing on recreational therapy and its benefits to various populations, there is limited information about municipal recreation leaders’ knowledge and perceptions of the profession and its practitioners. According to the literature reviewed, authors of various studies suggest that people do not know or fully understand the benefits and difference between recreational therapy and municipal recreation (Widmer, Duerden & Taniguchi, 2013; Witman & Shank, 1987; Walkenhorst et. al., 2015; Meeras, 2010; Martin and Markow, 2006). Moreover, staff directors and staff members are unaware of the needs and accommodations necessary for individuals with disabilities to access to recreation facilities. Municipal recreation leaders who are untrained, unaware, and unknowledgeable of the needs and accommodations necessary to guarantee optimum use and participation are a disservice to populations with disabilities. Furthermore, municipal recreation leaders need further training to increase knowledge of recreational therapy because of the increase of services and revenue that could be provided to serve a growing population of individuals with disabilities (Brault, 2005; Brault, 2010; McNeil, 1993; McNeil, 1997; McNeil, 2001; Steinmetz, 2006; Taylor, 2018). With the increasing number of individuals with disabilities in California, it is a duty of municipal recreation leaders to ensure safety and quality delivery of recreation services and programs. The purpose for this study is to identify the perceptions of municipal leaders on recreational therapy as it relates to their current level of knowledge of the profession and practitioners in the field. A survey was administered to 2,017 recreation professionals who are active members of California Parks & Recreation Society (CPRS). Seventy-one (71) completed the online questionnaire in March and April 2019. The results of this study identified and revealed that a majority of the sample that completed the survey possess poor to average knowledge of the recreational therapy profession and its practitioners. Survey responses also suggested that a majority of the sample population was interested in receiving future training related to various topics in recreational therapy. The findings could serve as the foundation for future research on municipal recreation leaders’ knowledge and perceptions. In addition, the findings add to the existing literature and body of knowledge.