Rehabilitative & Therapeutic Benefits

It has been suggested that chess might be a useful tool in rehabilitation or therapy for individuals who recovering from stroke, those living with autism or developmental disabilities, and those with other special needs. Participation in chess can allow such individuals to practice and develop their fine motor skills, required in moving the chess pieces in a straight line, vertically, diagonally, and horizontally. Participation in chess can also help individuals with injury or disability to improve their cognitive and communication skills. Additionally, chess can enable the individual to develop a sense of deep concentration and calm.

Chess can be used a form of recreational therapy, which involves the use of various recreational activities as a form of treatment for persons who are physically, cognitively, or emotionally disabled. Although this is a relatively new field, a number of studies have been conducted which demonstrate the efficacy and value of the use of recreational therapy for individuals who have experienced injury or who are living with some form of disability.

It has been demonstrated that recreational therapy can lead to improvement in cognitive functioning. More specifically, recreational therapy can enhance attention, memory, perception, and organization skills. Additionally, recreational therapy can help cognitively-impaired individuals work on issues of orientation, sensory stimulation, and environmental awareness.

For individuals with spinal cord injuries, research has demonstrated that active involvement in recreation post-injury led to life satisfaction, high-quality social relationships, and low levels of depression (American Therapeutic Recreation Association, 2005). Participants in recreation have demonstrated decreased loneliness, increased social interaction with others, increased ability to effectively manage stress, and improved morale.

Relevant to Chess Corps’ work in the Veterans Administration Hospital, research has found that recipients of individualized recreational therapy services in an inpatient rehabilitation setting demonstrated significantly greater self-esteem at discharge, as well as ability to utilize the recreational activity to cope with stressors related to hospitalization, as compared to a control group not receiving recreational therapy (American Therapeutic Recreation Association, 2005).

For those with developmental disabilities, recreational therapy has been demonstrated to lead to improvement in communication and social skills, reduction in non-adaptive or inappropriate behavior, improvement in motor skill, improvement in various aspects of cognitive functioning such as increased attention span, and enhancement of social support networks (American Therapeutic Recreation Association, 2005).

Clearly, recreational activities such as chess have the potential to lead to tremendous therapeutic outcomes, by alleviating debilitating symptoms of the disability, enhancing growth in various aspects of daily functioning, encouraging independent functioning, and improving overall quality of life.



American Therapeutic Recreation Association (2005). Summary of Health Outcomes in Recreational Therapy. Retrieved August 16, 2005 from American Therapeutic Recreation Association Web site: http://www.atra

Ferguson, R.C. (1995, January). Chess in Education Research Summary: Paper Presented at the Chess in Education A Wise Move Conference, Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York, NY.

Ferguson, R.C. Teacher’s Guide: Research and Benefits. USA Junior Chess and Olympics Curriculum, Section B, pp. 1-11. Retrieved August 5, 2005, from Chess for the Quad Cities Web site:

Meyers, J. (2005). Why Offer Chess in Schools? Retrieved August 5, 2005 from About Chess Web site: