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Therapeutic recreation camps: an effective intervention for children and young people with chronic illness?


Since the 1930s, therapeutic recreation (TR) has been used in the UK to help young people cope with severe illness. This article surveys four systematic reviews and poses five questions that a paediatrician might ask: (1) How to select a TR experience and for which patient?; (2) Does TR augment brain injury rehabilitation?; (3) How do TR camps benefit children?; (4) Is TR cost-effective?; (5) What additional research is needed?

Methodological weaknesses in research impair the strength of conclusions. There is little research about matching of TR experiences to individuals, disease groups or age groups, or about the effect of TR camps in brain injury rehabilitation. TR interventions enhance self-esteem, disease knowledge, emotional well-being, adaptation to illness and symptom control. Educationalists suggest that self-esteem is helped most in mid to late adolescence. Where studied, TR camps are safe, which reassures parents. There have been few studies on cost-effectiveness. We conclude that young people benefit from TR. However, better-quality research would help select and further develop these experiences for young people with ill health.

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