Getting Kids Up in Trees, Despite Disabilities

November 01, 2019 10:35 AM

One team gets creative and transforms a previously challenging outdoor activity into one all patients can enjoy.

On a beautiful, fall day in early October, there was an unusual sighting in Curtiss Park in Saline, Michigan. It wasn’t just that kids were climbing in trees, but that these children all had one trait in common: they all had physical disabilities.

Although tree climbing seems like an obstacle for children with disabilities, adaptive outdoor recreation modifies standard outdoor activities to make them accessible.

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As an important part of the total rehabilitation process, this type of recreational therapy focuses on leisure time.  At Michigan Medicine, adaptive outdoor recreation is one of many interventions used by recreational therapists to improve the physical, cognitive, emotional, social and leisure needs of patients.  Other forms of activities include fishing, kayaking, hand cycling, yoga and a variety of other recreation-based group activities.

Funded by Michigan Medicine’s Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation department and a generous grant from the Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan, tree climbing is offered to patients as well as families in the community with children ages five and up who are living with a disability. The event encourages exercise, socializing and time outdoors, which can influence healthier minds and bodies while participants enjoy the fun.

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