Just steps away from the rehabilitation entrance of the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre, you will find the Janeway Play Garden. Its location is symbolic, as it is a place where rehabilitation for children takes shape in many ways. The therapeutic and accessible park provides not only an inviting space for patients, families, and staff on the hospital grounds, but also a safe space where progress with patient rehabilitation takes place while sick children have fun!
“The play garden has become an essential part of therapy for many patients to assist with meeting goals in therapeutic recreation, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy activities,” said Marjorie Scott, who was recently the division manager of the Development and Rehabilitation Division with the Children’s and Women’s Health Program at Eastern Health.
These activities have been taking place in the play area since it originally opened as the St. John’s Maple Leaf Therapeutic Play Garden in 2006. Fast-forward to 2019 — and many hours of therapeutic play later — the park required some renovations to equipment and infrastructure and extensions to offer additional options for play. Renovations began in the spring and the play garden officially re-opened for use on June 13.
“The Janeway Hospital continues to provide family-centered care in an outdoor setting. As we look around the play garden, we see many new components — musical instruments, a slide, and planting gardens, just to name a few,” said Ruth Squires, Manager, Telethon and Gift Planning, Janeway Foundation. “These upgrades were made possible by the Janeway Foundation’s kind and generous donors and by the Grand Concourse. We are grateful for their continued support.”
Airdrie Miller, recreation specialist with the Janeway Development and Rehabilitation program, took the lead in working with project partners and helping to organize the upgrades. “The upgrades include new panels of the ship-themed play structure and the resurfacing and extension of the rubber flooring surrounding the structure; newly installed musical instruments and water play area; a new wheelchair accessible therapeutic garden bed; and a new storage shed which will house a collection of accessible bicycles,” she said.
For Airdrie, taking the lead on the project was a natural fit. She is part of the Therapeutic Recreation team at the Janeway – one of the groups that make use of the play garden space as a fun way to help their patients while providing high-quality care and support.
“The profession of Therapeutic Recreation uses treatment, education and recreation services to help people with illnesses, disabilities and other conditions develop and use their leisure in ways that enhance their health, independence and well-being. For children, play is often a form of treatment, provides opportunities for socialization, and can be a pleasant diversion from worry and stress,” said Airdrie.
During the summer and fall, it is common to see therapeutic recreation and other therapy staff in the play garden helping children with activities, such as developing bike riding skills, shooting hoops at the basketball net, swinging, working on confidence and endurance in walking on varying surfaces, and wheelchair training on different terrains. In addition, the new updates allow for children to engage in water play on warm days, enjoy outdoor musical instruments, and grow, maintain and harvest crops.
“All these activities assist in developing skills and confidence for daily living. The recent upgrades to the Janeway Play Garden provide increased options to assist clients in meeting their goals while using play and fun to gain skills,” said Marjorie.
Airdrie adds that, “play, through observing, exploring, and manipulating materials, serves as an introduction to problem solving, as well as an opportunity to experience the benefits of physical activity. Whether bike riding, weeding, watering the garden crops or engaging in water play on a beautiful day, physical activity can have significant impact on mood, pain control and wellness.”
In addition to therapeutic activities, the Janeway Play Garden also provides a beautiful playground, retreat and gathering place for patients and their families on the grounds of the hospital.
Year-round therapy though play
The Janeway’s Therapeutic Recreation team provides top-notch care to Eastern Health’s youngest patients, through their work at the play garden and beyond. Throughout the year, you can also find the team involving children in indoor play in Janeway playrooms, working with in-patients and out-patients in acute care or in rehab and development. In addition, the team engages patients in community integration experiences (such as exploring programs and services with Easter Seals, a community recreation program or Empower, The Disability Resource Centre) and training on or trialing adaptive equipment (such as an all-terrain wheelchair or an adapted bicycle for use in community settings).
Airdrie and her colleagues take great pride in working with patients and families through therapeutic recreation. “Therapeutic recreation offers an unconditional acceptance that goes beyond the basics to inspire individuals and help enhance abilities,” she said.
Airdrie has been helping patients to enhance their abilities for nearly 31 years. “I love my job. I have always been passionate about health, wellness and sport and I love working with people. As a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, I promote health and wellness through leisure, recreation and play. In the run of a week, I can be found with my patients at a swimming pool or a local walking trail, the play garden or a special event, always with a focus on the individual developing skills to engage or re-engage in meaningful leisure activities. No matter where I go with my patients, I have the support of a great team behind me.” ■
This story was written by Allison Barter, a communications specialist with Eastern Health, in collaboration with Airdrie Miller, recreation specialist with Eastern Health.