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UM professor uses wheelchairs for recreational therapy

Assistant professor Jasmine Townsend has ordered 12 sports wheelchairs for use in the recreational therapy program at The University of Mississippi.

Although she is new to The University of Mississippi, assistant professor Jasmine Townsend has ambitious plans in store for the recreational therapy program in the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management.

She began teaching therapeutic recreation courses at Ole Miss this semester and has purchased 12 sports wheelchairs through the university to be used in class and adaptive sports. She said the wheelchairs are currently being manufactured but are expected to arrive around January 2013. When they arrive, she will incorporate them into her classes and use them for learning activities.

“The wheelchairs will be great for teaching the students how to work with folks that are going to be wheelchair bound,” said Kim Beason, professor and coordinator of park and recreation management. “I know that Dr. Townsend will go the next step with it and introduce it as a viable form of recreation.”

When the wheelchairs are not used for in-class learning activities, the sports chairs will be used in several wheelchair sports, including basketball, bocce ball and “murderball,” also known as rugby.

Townsend eventually hopes to hold a Paralympics event in Oxford to draw attention to adaptive sports and Paralympic athletes.

Jasmine Townsend’s husband Jeff Townsend is no stranger to adaptive sports; he played wheelchair basketball as an undergraduate.

“I think it’s really forward-thinking of the university to supply these chairs and to allow her to have the funds to get these chairs because I think it’s something that can benefit a lot of students,” he said. “I hope it’ll be eye-opening in the fact that students, faculty and staff will take advantage of the opportunity to jump in the wheelchairs and just try out an adaptive sport.”

Jasmine Townsend also hopes the wheelchairs will serve as a potential method of recruiting for the recreational therapy major. Both she and Beason said the profession is a growing one.

“We know that over the last couple of years there have been a lot of information outlets that have shown that the job market for people in the field of therapeutic recreation has increased, and it will increase,” Beason said.

To learn more about the recreational therapy major and the HESRM department, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/hesrm/index.htm.