Recreation and leisure activities are necessary for our wellbeing, to develop mind and body skills, express creativity, relieve stress, meet and interact with others, as well and provide a general joy for living. For individuals with disabilities these activities provide opportunities to learn skills that are transferable and can be applied in other settings, including school and work. Unfortunately, many adults with disabilities find themselves with limited opportunities to fully enjoy leisure time and participate in social events. Despite the benefits of physical activity through recreational and leisure activities, research data from the Center for Disease Control indicates that individuals with disabilities are less likely than those without disabilities to be physically active (CDC, 2007, p. 1437). Physical barriers and discriminatory attitudes in our society have improved with ADA guidelines, but many barriers to inclusive opportunities remain.
Schools can utilize person-centered planning techniques to determine student likes and interests and plan for participation in recreation and leisure activities. This provides opportunities to Introduce and pair students with mentors or peer buddies as well as provide supports for after-school activities and events. Families can help students get involved in recreation and leisure activities by being active in their own communities, helping their children explore interest and encouraging and supporting participation in activities. Encouraging youth to be actively involved in recreation and leisure activities while still in school will lead to a happier and more fulfilling life after graduation.
St. Mary’s County Public Schools
Coordinator of Adaptive PE: Rocco Aiello
With new technological advances and disability legislation, individuals with disabilities are more interested in participating in community recreation and leisure programs than ever before. However, many individuals with disabilities remain unable to participate due to a lack of support or skills.
St. Mary’s County Public Schools (SMCPS) places a strong emphasis on providing appropriate physical education for all students. Our programs teach students the skills needed to be active and healthy and interact in their communities. Educators focus on activities offered in the community that promote a physically active lifestyle while enhancing health and wellness. Students explore and participate in a variety of recreation and leisure opportunities to learn how exercise and fitness are lifelong activities essential for healthy and active lifestyles. Community participation also provides students with disabilities opportunities for increased socialization, independence, development of leadership skills, and of course, physical fitness.
Questions to Consider
- What recreation and leisure activities are available in your community for adults with and without disabilities?
- What barriers exist in your community for participation in recreation and leisure activities and how can they be removed?
- What are the unique skills and interests of your student(s) and what recreation activities align with them?