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Promoting individualized and integrated recreation and leisure experience.

Recent efforts in the field of developmental disabilities have focused on supporting people in individualized and flexible ways. An individualized approach to recreation and leisure involves moving away from special programs by instead developing the supports that will enable people to participate in regular community programs, activities and settings.

Three strategies related to this include: assisting people in developing and maintaining interests; utilizing community resources; and facilitating social interactions and relationships.

Developing and Maintaining Interests

Interests provide a vehicle through which people get involved in community activities and form connections with other people.

O'Brien and Lyle (1987, p. 35) speak of the importance of interests: "Interests link the personal and the social. They express individual gifts, concerns, and fascinations and call for activities, information and tools. Shared interest founds associations. People point to interests when they describe what gives their lives meaning." Over time, people may establish "leisure identities" (McGill, 1987). This entails developing an interest to the extent that it becomes one of the primary defining characteristics of a person. This can help take the focus off the disability as a primary defining characteristic.

Utilizing Community Resources

To promote involvement in regular community recreational activities and settings based on people's interests, it is necessary to be informed about what kinds of places, organizations and activities exist and who goes there, for what purposes, at what times, etc. (Center on Human Policy, 1990; O'Connell, 1990). One needs to think about where people without disabilities who have similar interests or likes/dislikes spend time.

In cases where certain community activities or resources are insufficient or nonexistent, one could advocate for the development of such resources.

Facilitating Social Interactions and Relationships

Another aspect of assisting people to participate in community activities and settings may be the strategy of "facilitation" or "bridge-building" (Mount, Beeman and Ducharme, 1988). This can be used, in particular, to move beyond physical integration to social integration.

A number of lessons have been learned by people who make such efforts on behalf of people with disabilities (Mount et al., 1988).

* It is best done on an individual basis -- one person at a time.

* The personal, local connections of bridge-builders are critical.

* There are no set rules or models to follow; rather bridge-building calls for creativity and flexibility.


Additional effort must go into helping people with developmental disabilities have integrated recreation and leisure experiences which also provide opportunities for social relationships with people without disabilities and obtain valued roles in the community. Issues related to this include:

* Ensuring that adequate supports are provided for full participation.

* Learning about and from community places and organizations.

* Collaboration of diverse human service agencies, community service agencies and community members is essential to the promotion of maximum opportunities for inclusion (Schleien, Light, McAvoy and Baldwin, 1989).

* Building community coalitions.

As integrated recreation/leisure comes to be seen as more of a priority in people's lives by more people (family members, educators, recreationists, residential service providers and community members), children and adults with disabilities will have increased opportunities to enjoy the same range of activities, experiences, roles and relationships as nondisabled community members.

This was prepared by the Research and Training Canter on Community Integration with support from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. No endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of the opinions expressed should be inferred. For more information, write to the author at the Center on Human Policy, 200 Huntington Hall, Syracuse, N.Y. 13244-2340.

For a list of references and select resources, contact NPND, 1600 Prince St., #115, Alexandria, Va. 22314, (703) 684-6763.
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Title Annotation:for the developmentally disabled
Author:Walker, Pam
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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