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“Camp Gives Me Hope”: Exploring the Therapeutic Use of Community for Adults with Cerebral Palsy

Shay Dawson, Kendra Liddicoat


Empirically based camp research focused on best practice approaches is limited in camp settings that serve individuals with disabilities. The current study was implemented to address this issue by using a case-study design to understand the lived experience and personal memories of 27 adult participants with varying degrees of cerebral palsy. Participant attendance at this camp ranged from 5-42 years with many starting as pediatric campers. Parents were also surveyed to garner an additional perspective on the camp experience. A phenomenological approach was utilized as a means of understanding the nature of their experiences. Emerging themes included: 1) being a respected member of a community (including three subsets of community), 2) a place to have fun, 3) to participate in outdoor leisure activities, 4) a week of independence, and 5) a needed respite for parents and campers alike. Overall, the most prominent theme was being a part of a supportive community. Discussion and implications center on the potential use of community as a therapeutic modality for campers with specific medical needs, in providing direction for future research, and finally as the possible building block of a best practice camp model in settings concerned with serving individuals with disability.


Recreation Therapy, Disability Specific Camp, Community, Cerebral Palsy, Phenomenology

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