Autonomy Support at Diabetes Camp: A Self Determination Theory Approach to Therapeutic Recreation


  • Eddie Hill
  • Jim Sibthorp


Self-determination theory (SDT), self-management, internalization, type 1 diabetes, Benefits-Based Programming (BBP), summer camp, and motivation.


Adolescents with type 1 diabetes struggle to effectively manage their illness. Failure to take responsibility for regulating glycemic levels can lead to a number of very significant physiological, psychological, and social problems. This study employed a Benefits-Based Programming (BBP) approach and self-determination theory (SDT) to target outcomes through a recreation camp setting. The SDT provided researchers with a theoretical framework that focused on the internalization of diabetes management. The camp setting was chosen because annually diabetes camps serve more than 10,000 adolescents. Empirical evidence supports the use of theory-based camping for therapeutic purposes among adolescents with disabilities and illnesses to increase self-esteem, self-image, and self-determined behaviors (Brannan, Fullerton, Arick, Robb, & Bender, 2002; Mahon, 1994; Marsh, 1999). The results of this theory-based study can be used by recreation therapists and recreation programmers to help increase the effectiveness of other diabetes camps. Results of the regression equations showed perceived autonomy support to be significantly and uniquely related to the predicted outcome variable (e.g., competence for diabetes management).





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