Recreation and Leisure

Recreation and leisure are terms often used interchangeably. Both relate to what people choose to do in their free time, time that is not otherwise used for work, school, or other activities like appointments and chores. Leisure time is any free time that can be used to pursue personal interests. Recreation is an individual’s preferred pleasurable and enjoyable activities in which they engage during leisure time.

Recreational activities like knitting, chess, playing musical instruments, or social networking in person or on the computer can be sedentary. They can also be active and enhance physical fitness and well-being. Examples of active recreation include walking, skiing, dancing, bowling, hiking, rock climbing, boating, bicycling, weightlifting, and goalball.

Why Teach Recreation, Sports, and Leisure as a Specific Area?

Children with blindness, low vision, or deafblindness need systematic and purposeful instruction beyond the general education curricula to gain the skills necessary to be independent, productive, educated members of society. Recreation, fitness, and leisure are some instructional areas that must be addressed. Knowledge of recreation, fitness, and leisure supports student capacities in social interaction, orientation and mobility, independent living, and self-determination. Developing recreation, fitness, and leisure skills can have far-reaching positive effects on the lives of people with blindness or low vision.

Research has shown that recreation is an important factor in quality of life for everyone, including people with disabilities. People who engage in recreational activities will likely benefit by having improved cardiovascular function, better ability to sleep, improved self-esteem, increased stamina, and decreased stress levels, all of which improve quality of life and have positive benefits for other activities.

Beyond the health and wellness benefits of physical fitness touted in the media, when one’s body is more accustomed to the different types of physical movements inherent in recreation and fitness activities, that person generally has better flexibility, strength, and stamina. With improved physical fitness, independent living skills are easier to perform and less stressful on the body. In addition, recreation is a highly social phenomenon organized around friendships or family groups, and these social interactions buffer the effects of stress on health. With this in mind, recreational activity that increases physical activity and improves fitness should be encouraged.

How Do TVIs Approach Instruction?

Recreation and fitness for children with blindness or low vision cannot be learned by passively observing others at play. Recreation must be intentionally and systematically taught with disability-specific techniques and safety in mind. The foundation for recreation can be learned in physical education (PE) courses with accommodations and adaptations.

Children with blindness or low vision gain significantly from PE classes. These classes cover aspects of the expanded core curriculum throughout the year. By joining their peers, these students learn key sports and fitness skills that benefit all children. They also learn to make choices about how to spend their free time and make healthy life decisions.

TVIs play a crucial role by giving students detailed information about recreation and leisure activities. They work with PE teachers and other experts to adapt activities. This ensures students can participate and learn independently. For instance, in softball, a tee might be used instead of pitching the ball. A beeper ball could replace a standard ball in games.

In basketball, tape might mark the court’s edges. A beeper on the hoop can help students locate it. They can also explore sports designed for those with vision impairments, like goalball and beep baseball. These adaptations enhance their ability to join in and enjoy sports.

Including Peers

TVIs also support recreation by describing the student’s peers’ activities. They model those activities for the student and school staff who work directly with the student in other areas.

They might teach the student how to play games that classroom peers are playing. This includes how the activities can be adapted to be more inclusive. For example, braille might be added to playing cards, or friends might read game materials to the student.

Your TVI can also orient the child to the school playground or PE field and show the child how to use various play areas and equipment.

Support For Outside the School

During direct instruction, TVIS and O&Ms describe the recreational activities in which people around them participate. In addition to verbal descriptions, tactile maps, and diagrams can be used to teach layouts of various activities.

Even if young people who are blind or have low vision don’t take part in every sport or leisure activity, learning the rules is beneficial. Understanding how different games are played enriches social interactions with peers for students with visual impairments.

It’s important to remember that recreational, fitness, and leisure skills go beyond just physical activities. Students with visual disabilities should explore a range of hobbies that might interest them. Even if they don’t stick with a hobby long-term, they’ll gain insight into how others enjoy their free time. This knowledge enables them to join conversations about various activities. The primary aim for TVIs is to assist students in finding recreational, fitness, and leisure pursuits they enjoy and can engage in throughout their lives.

How Can We Support Recreation, Fitness, and Active Leisure Instruction in Schools?

As with all people, regardless of ability or personal interests, recreation, fitness, and leisure skills are an important expanded core curriculum area that supports both well-being and quality of life for students with blind or low vision. Because these students have difficulty seeing how others spend their free time, TVIs and O&M instructors systematically and purposefully help these children discover and learn about activities they may enjoy.

Participating in recreation, fitness, and leisure helps youths with blindness or low vision develop social, career, and problem-solving skills. Engaging in this expanded core curriculum also increases self-esteem, self-determination, and overall health.

Students who are challenged and achieve goals they thought might be impossible or too tricky develop confidence which positively impacts all areas of their lives. To that end, TVIs should know how to adapt various recreational activities for these children and work with PE instructors to ensure they are included in their PE classes.

We do not want youths with blindness or low vision to be idle bystanders; they should be engaged in recreation, fitness, and leisure activities alongside their peers to ensure they learn the skills necessary to make purposeful and self-determined life choices.

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