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Breaking the Ice

Therapeutic recreation encourages creativity, promotes social interaction and helps patients recovering from spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury work on enhancing their functional abilities. At TIRR Memorial Hermann, therapeutic recreation specialists, occupational therapists and physical therapists involve patients in various activity groups and schedule community outings ranging from shopping to group dining at restaurants to visits to the Houston Museum of Science or the University of Houston, based on their individual goals.

Erin Henry with a patient on an outing to the Houston Zoo

Erin Henry with a patient on an outing to the Houston Zoo

"On these outings we create a zone of safety so patients are more willing to explore new ways of doing things,” says therapeutic recreation specialist Ava Skrabanek, CTRS. “We process the experience with them and teach them problem-solving skills so they can be creative in learning how to live in the community in a new way. Many patients are apprehensive about their first return to the community. We help them work through that apprehension. For the most part, people report they are proud of their accomplishment.”

Erin Henry, OTR, coordinates the Community Reintegration Program, a three-hour group where up to six patients with spinal cord injury work on functional skills in various community settings. “At most facilities the goal is to get patients home,” she says. “Our end goal is to get the patient active in the community. That means making sure they know how to get around town using public transportation or go to the airport if they want to travel. Outings offer them an opportunity to practice skills learned in therapy, while in the community in the safe company of a group of peers.

Every patient at TIRR Memorial Hermann is different and has unique goals.”

- Erin Henry, OTR

Two groups are open to patients with brain injury. Members of REACH plan a three-hour outing to work on developing their higher-level skills. The Community Awareness Program helps lower-level patients with brain injury work on their endurance in the community. “Every patient at TIRR Memorial Hermann is different and has unique goals,” Henry says. “We have outings to suit everyone and align with their goals."

“Outings are a good practice run,” Skrabanek adds. “They break the ice and provide a good opportunity to work out the kinks before returning to life in the community.”