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The College of Health Sciences welcomes the Recreational Therapy program Fall 2023

by Erica Howell


The ODU College of Health Sciences will welcome the Recreational Therapy program into the School of Rehabilitation Sciences, beginning with Fall 2023 classes. Recreational Therapy is moving from the ODU College of Education & Professional Studies where it is currently offered as a concentration in the Department of Human Movement Sciences under the Park, Recreation and Tourism Studies degrees.

The College of Health Sciences looks forward to welcoming faculty members Betsy Kennedy, Ed.M., CTRS, and Shelly Beaver, MS, CTRS.

For more information about Recreational Therapy, Shelly's "elevator speech" sums it up nicely: "Recreational therapists use activity-based interventions to meet the physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of individuals with disabilities and related health conditions. We work in a variety of settings (e.g., hospitals, rehabilitation, long-term care, mental/behavioral health, community parks and recreation) with a wide variety of client populations and follow a clinical process of assessment, planning, implementation, evaluation, and documentation."

Betsy has been at ODU for 30 years. She was practicing as a recreational therapist in the Riverside Health System when Hampton University invited her to come speak with students, which led to the opportunity to teach a class as an adjunct. They started a concentration in an existing program where she taught for two years before she was offered a position at ODU.

Shelly worked with individuals with disabilities in healthcare in Pennsylvania before she began teaching adjunct classes on disability studies and disability culture. She eventually started a program for students with autism. Seven years ago, she was offered a full-time at ODU.

When asked what they are most looking forward to about joining the College of Health Sciences, both Betsy and Shelly said, "it's been a long time coming."

Betsy clarified, "We're an allied health profession, so it's a much better fit." They are both looking forward to interprofessional work with other programs including occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy, just as recreational therapists would do in practice.

The benefit for students is of course the inter professional work, but also more focused coursework in recreational therapy, rather than the parks, recreation, and tourism studies courses. Joining the College of Health Sciences will allow the program to expand courses offered and increase visibility of the program.

As a result of connections among program directors in the college of health sciences, Leslie Hoglund and Shelly Beaver collaborated and developed an exciting new course titled, Health Equity and Disability Culture: "The 3-credit course will explore the history of health equity and disability and how prejudice and discrimination against people with disabilities impacting health. Students will learn how to apply health equity frameworks, theories, and research to address disability-specific models of health disparities and to achieve health equity in populations with disabilities."

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