Year of Publication


Date of Thesis


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Occupational Therapy

Subject Categories

Occupational therapy; Developmentally disabled


Finding and keeping employment is an area that is particularly difficult for people with disabilities (Erickson, von Schrader & Lee, 2017). Buttimer & Tierney (2005) found that participation in leisure and recreation activities predicts quality of life and promotes inclusion in the community for youth with mild to moderate developmental disabilities. Serious leisure engagement among people with disabilities has been found to develop increased levels of confidence, skills and self-esteem (Patterson & Pegg, 2009). Serious leisure activities can include indoor rock climbing. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of participating in an indoor rock climbing program on high school aged students diagnosed with developmental disabilities who were simultaneously enrolled in a career skills program. The program outcomes were retrospectively analyzed in a sample of eight high school students engaged in an indoor rock climbing program for a six-week period at an Ivy League university in the Northeast region of the United States. The outcome measures consisted of qualitative and quantitative data collected in the form of semi-structured interviews, global quality of life scale, and a Likert-scale style questionnaire that were administered to the eight students. Students reported that the indoor rock climbing program had positive effects on them. The overarching positive themes found in the data were related to vocational benefits and social emotional benefits. There were some minor unfavorable effects identified which included that the program caused stress and there was dislike for the rock climbing experience. These are novel themes when compared to the findings in the literature. Though the sample size was very small, the outcomes from this program were quite positive and as such, it can serve as an exemplar for indoor rock climbing gyms and occupational therapy programs that may want to use similar methods to promote confidence, new learning, goal achievement, socialization, trust, enjoyment, and improved mental well-being.



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