FARMINGTON —  Students in a recreational therapy class at the University of Maine at Farmington didn’t let Friday morning’s freezing temperatures faze them as they experienced playing tennis from wheelchairs.

Different types of recreation provide different concepts for learning, said assistant professor Chad Duncan. The students in his 8 a.m. class had previously studied theories and the history of recreational therapy. Taking their new knowledge on dealing with diversity and working out issues by experiencing it unfortunately comes later in the semester, like Friday, as chilly fingers struggled to hit the tennis ball from different styles of wheelchairs.

“A couple students are pretty good at it; some have struggled,” he said. The fact that “a lot of the students haven’t played tennis before” was also a factor.

A little frustration for one player resulted from the fact that she was sitting in a chair that was too big for her, he said,  pointing to a lower back chair that allows for quicker and more nimble movement.

The rules in the chair-bound version of tennis allow the ball to bounce twice to give more time for the player to get to it, he said. Students stood behind the chairs ready to retrieve the errant balls.

Next semester his class will attempt different recreation challenges, such as adaptive hiking outside. The inside volleyball segment will feature a small bell inside the ball allowing blindfolded students to experience using their sense of hearing to play.

Last year, his students used wheelchairs to compete with a University of New Hampshire quad rugby team. They quickly realized how tiring it was, especially without the upper body strength that wheelchair occupants develop.

The entry level class, mostly freshmen and sophomores, eventually may go for careers in rehabilitation, occupational and physical therapy.

Tom Fowke, a
geology major senior from New Hampshire, said the early morning activity “wasn’t bad,” as he leaned from his chair to reach the ball. Friends in the class encouraged him to try the class as an elective before his graduation in May, Duncan said.

Along with these active experiences, the class works with simpler tasks such as making play dough. Preparing the dough teaches math skills, especially those needed to help traumatic brain injury patients adapt, he said. Some basic skills need for cooking are also learned as an individual measures the dough ingredients.

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Students in a recreational therapy class at the University of Maine at Farmington experienced playing tennis from a wheelchair early Friday morning despite frosty temperatures. Senior Tom Fowke serves the ball from his chair. A couple of students stood behind the wheelchairs to retrieve balls.

Students in a recreational therapy class at the University of Maine
at Farmington experienced playing tennis from a wheelchair early Friday
morning despite frosty temperatures.

Students in a recreational therapy class at the University of Maine at Farmington experienced playing tennis using a wheelchair Friday at the Hippach Field courts. Senior Tom Fowke serves the ball from his chair. A couple of students stood behind the wheelchairs to retrieve flying balls.


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