Recreation Therapy Program Coordinator Selected to be This Year’s Distinguished Researcher Presenter

Rec Therapy Program Coordinator Selected to be This Year’s Distinguished Researcher Presenter

Recreation Therapy Program Coordinator, Candace Ashton-Forrester has been selected by her peers to deliver the Distinguished Researcher Presentation at the upcoming Research and Innovation Day event on April 1, 2019. Research and Innovation Day is a part of CHHS’ signature Health and Human Services Week event.

Ashton-Forrester’s research focuses on individuals with disabilities and their participation in leisure and sports. She was a recreational therapist for almost 10 years in varied settings, including infant stimulation, community mental health, domestic partner abuse and long-term care prior to graduate school. Her most recent position was in community behavioral health with older adults, where she noticed the importance of leisure for older adults to adapt to aspects of the aging process. For her Ph.D., she attended the University of Illinois, one of the first universities to develop wheelchair sports programs.

Ashton-Forrester’s most current project involves the Warrior Games, an event where active-duty service members and veterans with spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairment, serious illnesses, or post-traumatic stress go head-to-head in sports competitions, such as archery, swimming and wheelchair basketball. The Warrior Games were established in 2010 as a way to enhance recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill, or injured service members and expose them to adaptive sports. The Games encourage veterans to stay physically active when they return to their communities and inspire and promote opportunities for growth and achievement.

What’s most noteworthy is her focus on family perspectives. “We haven’t found any research where the families have been asked, What does this mean to you?” Ashton-Forrester said. “Imagine your son or daughter, who was wounded in combat, which resulted in lots of medical issues. What’s it like to see him/her out on the track winning medals? How is that affecting you or your relationship with each other? What’s the impact of that?”

She has received several external grants to implement adaptive sports programs for active duty service members and veterans with disabilities. Project SOAR (Sports, Outreach, and Adapted Recreation) is a partnership between UNCW and ACCESS of Wilmington. Honor’s student Samantha Wang is currently working with Ashton-Forrester on a study comparing the leisure interests and motivations of younger Veterans with older ones. This study will provide valuable information to help Project SOAR and adaptive sports programs for Veterans throughout the U.S. meet the needs of Veterans of all ages.

Ashton-Forrester presents her work around the world. Come hear about her research journey during this year’s Health and Human Services Week.