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Climbing, racing, playing by the fire, building forts with hammers, and free independent exploration are all examples of risky play. The inherent risk-taking that comes with play is essential to children’s physical and cognitive development, social and emotional well-being, confidence, self-esteem, and risk management. However, as many as two thirds of adults in United States have reported to come across at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE) growing up. The exposures to childhood trauma have been linked to a variety of negative health, psychiatric, and behavioral outcomes. Societal attitudes may further refrain at-risk youth from opportunities to gain essential skills and independence. This project aims to determine ways to encourage risky play for at-risk youth, while also at the same time, exploring occupational therapy’s potential role and impact when working with at-risk youth and the community-based youth programs. Through lived experiences of at-risk youth as well as collaboration with caregivers, barriers and needs can be identified to better facilitate opportunities for at-risk youth to engage in risky play experiences.

Publication Date



University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences


Risky Play, At-Risk Youth, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Occupational Therapy, Community Youth Programs

Medical Subject Headings

Adverse Childhood Experiences, Child, Caregivers, Risk-Taking, Occupational Therapy


Early Childhood Education | Occupational Therapy | Social Justice


Poster presented at the Virtual OTD Capstone Symposium, held online at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences April 12-14, 2022.

Exploring the Role of Occupational Therapy in Promoting Risky Play for At-Risk Youth