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Recreation and play; the time is NOW.

Recreation and Play The Time is NOW

When planning Exceptional Parent magazine almost 20 years ago, we recognized that recreation and play was a critical area in the life of every child. Yet, at that time, play activities for children with disabilities usually focused primarily on finding a way for a child to reach therapeutic goals in an enjoyable way; play itself was not a goal.

Editorially, we were more interested in helping the child with a disability develop play skills, so that he or she would more likely be included in activities with other children. Since we also believe that parents and other family members teach children basic skills, academic or social, we wanted to focus on activities that parents could enjoy with their children and that could include all family members. Last, but not least, we wanted to make sure these activities were for "fun" because at that time many people -- professionals and parents -- did not believe children with disabilities were able to have fun.

As we get ready for celebrating our 20th year, we have realized in the course of reviewing the contents of the magazine since its beginnings, that we did not consistently include recreation, play and fun activities in the magazine. Instead, we noted that we, too, were governed by the many factors that influence how families act. Essentially, we wanted to make sure that we covered the most practical aspects of everyday life. As a result, we found ourselves focusing on the wide range of needs that children and their families have. Then, as we set editorial priorities, articles on play activities were the first thing to be dropped.

We also knew that planning for the future tends to get less attention than it deserves because parents must first address the challenges of everyday life. For example, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act this year has demonstrated how long-term commitments and future planning by people with foresight and energy can make a major difference.

Today, we can see the cumulative importance of the changes that have taken place in the lives of children and adults with disabilities during the past two decades. In 1975, the passage of the Education For All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142) made access to schools not only possible but mandatory. This mandate has meant that children with disabilities have become visible, real people for many, many people of all ages. Even when children with disabilities have not actually participated in recreational programs, they have been active spectators. Furthermore, recreational activities have become part of the individualized educational plans of many children.

We also are beginning to see how the efforts of many parents concerned with access for their children to play and recreation are having an impact community by community, playground by playground. More recently, these barriers have begun to crumble everywhere. A clear symbol is how parental pressure led to the creation of the Little League Challenger Division. Now children with disabilities can be involved in every Little League program.

In the last 20 years, as children with disabilities have gotten the attention they deserve, greater knowledge about how to teach basic play skills has developed. Now we are eager to learn about the ways children are being involved in play activities at home, in school and on the playground, so that we can share this know-how with our readers.

This year, we have returned to recreation and fun in a more active way. Since November 1989, Alice Wershing of the Disabled Children's Computer Group in Berkeley, California, has prepared a regular column about the adaptation of everyday toys and games which are readily available in toy stores, so they can be enjoyed by children with various disabilities. As a result, many readers now bring these everyday activities into their homes for everyone to share.

We also began a regular fitness column, prepared by the staff at Special Olympics, which explains how to develop the physical skills necessary for action-oriented activities. We have been impressed by the creative ways such skills can be taught. In this issue, we are sharing information on the adaptation of school playgrounds from a monograph prepared by the Special Education Branch of the Ministry of Education, Province of British Columbia, Canada.

We have come a long way. Families, schools and communities are charting new ground. Recreation and play are important for all children, and the time to begin them is now. It is clear that children with disabilities will be participating more and more in the everyday fun of childhood alongside their peers. Twenty years from now, exclusion from play and fun will be just dim memories.
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Title Annotation:for children with disabilities
Author:Schleifer, Maxwell J.; Klein, Stanley D.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:editorial
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:777
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