A Guide to Therapeutic and Inclusive Recreation Programming in Arizona Schools

Schools & Providers

What is therapeutic and inclusive recreation?

It is recreation-based activities designed to support the social, emotional, physical, and academic growth of all students. The activities are adaptable, student-centered, and engaging to promote and sustain engagement among all.

Coordinating Process, Practice, Policy, and Funding


Schools, providers, and families play important roles in awareness and understanding of the value of therapeutic and inclusive recreation programming, and establishing systematic strategies to advance TIRP at the school level. The process involves a series of actions and steps that can be initiated by any member of a school community, including providers and families. A comprehensive and systematic approach is inclusive of the following actions:

Build awareness

    • Advocate for the importance of TIRP.
    • Educate key stakeholders about opportunities for TIRP.
    • Share evidence supporting the value of TIRP.

Set priorities

    • Assess existing components of TIRP before, during, and after school
    • Identify barriers to integrating comprehensive TIRP
    • Identify available resources, unique characteristics, and needs of the school
    • Allocate time, funding and resources to professional and program development
    • Establish a written statement of commitment to TIRP

Organize a collaborative approach

    • Invite and involve individuals with a shared commitment to TIRP to initiate strategic enhancement of TIRP.
    • Establish an interprofessional team to be responsible for advancing TIRP. Draw from existing teams such as school wellness committees or professional learning communities, or create a new team with members representing diverse roles.
    • Form a community of practice that will cultivate knowledge and leverage networks to advance TIRP.
    • Design a customized and sustainable approach to implement TIRP based on the school’s culture, needs, and resources.

Integrate strategies

    • Promote the value of TIRP throughout the school community
    • Implement programming components throughout the school community.
    • Sustain a customized and comprehensive approach to TIRP.
    • Continuously evaluate and monitor the outcomes of TIRP and modify the approach accordingly.

School leaders are an integral part of the process to establish priorities and allocate resources for TIRP.


Comprehensive integration of TIRP in schools entails an interprofessional and collaborative approach to optimize diverse contributions in the delivery and access of quality meaningful programming before, during, and after school hours to include holiday and summer breaks.
Schools and communities can optimize the diverse expertise of an interprofessional team.
  • Access: Programming intentionally designed to be inclusive is available to all youth before, during, and after school. Gaps with current practices need to be addressed to move toward exemplary practice.
  • Interprofessional collaboration: Educational and community professionals from a variety of disciplines and roles cooperate to plan and deliver comprehensive TIRP that enhances social, emotional, and physical health, and academic performance. Schools make use of the diverse competencies and expertise of the varied professionals to optimize access to quality comprehensive programming. Collaborators are unique to the availability of school, district and community resources, and include school staff and community providers.
  • Competencies: Ensure professionals facilitating TIRP are prepared and confident with inclusive practices. Providers of quality therapeutic and inclusive recreation programming demonstrate advanced competency in their area of expertise.
  • Education and Training: Consistency in the application of TIRP is ensured across school staff through professional development and coaching. The structure and facilitation is designed based on the identified needs and resources within the school community.
    • Professional development supports the expertise of the interprofessional team and offers opportunities for learning for school staff.
    • Coaching may occur with administration or an identified school staff member whose role it is to support teachers in the application of knowledge gained from professional development. Collaboration with an identified leader within the school community ensures sustainability across application of practices.

Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists are qualified providers of recreational therapy and trained to design and implement TIRP in schools. Refer to nctrc.org for more information about recreational therapy professionals.


Increased awareness of therapeutic recreation as a resource is needed to support school administrators, teachers, families, and community providers to meet student’s functional goals through the provision of therapeutic and inclusive recreation. A brief review of laws, regulations and organizational statements is provided.

  • The Americans with Disabilities (ADA)
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
  • The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) School Based Claiming Program, Chapter 700
  • The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) administered by the Arizona Department of Education
  • Arizona Senate Bill 1083 (SB1083)
  • The 2017 Human Rights Treaty

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 300.34(c)(11) states recreation includes:

  • Assessment of leisure function
  • Therapeutic recreation services
  • Recreation programs in schools and community agencies
  • Leisure education


Creative use of available funding sources can be used for TIRP expenses to benefit students who have an individualized education plan, as well as the students who are not receiving specialized support services. Both school-based and non-school based funding sources can be used for expenses incurred from implementing therapeutic and inclusive recreation activities.

  • Special education funding through IDEA block grants
  • Title II and Title IV Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) through federal block grants
  • 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grants through federal funding.
  • Arizona Coordinated Early Intervening Service (CEIS) through IDEA federal funding
  • Title VII Impact Aid: Federal funding for schools serving youth living on tribal land and military bases
  • Arizona Proposition 301 Classroom Site Fund through sales tax
  • Public school tax credits supporting extracurricular activities
  • Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (Arizona’s Medicaid agency)
  • Funding from charitable foundations

Engaging Collaborators with TIRP

Therapeutic and Inclusive Programming in Schools is a vital approach to promote student well-being. By engaging in enjoyable recreation before, during, and afterschool, students can develop a sense of belonging with peers and adults – enhancing social, emotional, and physical health, and academic performance. This guide was developed to advance access to quality TIRP in schools through advocacy and a shared commitment among schools, community providers, and families.

  • Schools can advance TIRP by:
    • Understanding the importance of therapeutic and inclusive recreation in schools
    • Coordinating access to therapeutic and inclusive recreation
    • Utilizing diverse community resources
    • Integrating strategies that support existing policies
    • Optimizing available funding
  • Providers can support TIRP by:
    • Understanding the role they play in providing therapeutic and inclusive recreation programming in schools
    • Collaborating with school leaders on the design and implementation of TIRP
    • Sharing expertise that supports existing policies for TIRP in schools
    • Gaining awareness of existing funding to guide collaboration for TIRP in schools

Call to action: Schools, community providers, and families can all raise awareness of the value of TIRP and take action to advance integration in all schools.

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