RVH is the lead organization for the Preschool Speech and Language program and also houses Preschool Occupational Therapy Services for the Barrie and Bradford area thus providing early identification and intervention related to young children with Special Needs. There is a significant body of research that supports therapeutic services for children with special needs being provided in naturalistic contexts and further research that outlines the beneficial impacts of an outdoor setting, hence a push to move services outside of clinic settings when possible. Further we understand that parents with preschoolers with Special Needs face their own challenges and often find it difficult to participate in the community, safety and support are both issues that are regularly identified. This provides further motivation to support models that give parents the skills to support their children beyond the walls of a clinical setting. Recently Children’s Development Services at RVH had the opportunity to partner with the Conservation Authority at the Scanlon Centre to develop an integrated program to address key therapy goals for preschoolers in an outdoor, 100% natural setting provided by the conservation authority with the support of expert outdoor education teachers employed by the Conservation Authority, and this is how ‘Therapy in the Woods’ came to be. Rehab providers including SLP, CDA and OT partnered with the conservation authority to offer an intervention that facilitated participation in outdoor spaces and harnessed the therapeutic impact of those spaces.
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