Leisure Preferences and Leisure Communication with Peers of Elementary Students with and without Disabilities: Educational Implications

Article excerpt

The present study examined and compared the leisure activities and communication about leisure among peers of a large sample of preadolescents without disabilities and their peers with identified disabilities. All responded to a questionnaire about leisure. Findings revealed that these preadolescents participated in a large number and variety of leisure pursuits alone, with family, and with friends. Leisure choices and interests were often discussed with peers. The variables of disability and in particular of gender impacted the choice of leisure activities and the conversations about leisure. Implications for educators in general and special education are discussed.

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Recreation and leisure activities are important aspects of life for all individuals in our society. According to Driver (1992), leisure has important benefits for humans in at least six areas, including physiological aspects (reduced incidence of disease and increased sense of wellness); psychophysiological aspects (reduction of tension and anxiety, improved sense of well-being); psychological aspects (improved sense of self-esteem, freedom and independence, improved problem-solving capabilities, and enhanced perception of quality of life); social/cultural aspects (pride in one's community, cultural and historical awareness, and increased family bonds); environmental aspects (awareness of the need to protect the environment, to maintain outdoor recreational sites as well as protecting cultural, historic, and heritage sites); and economic aspects (opportunities for employment in the leisure industry, which is one of the biggest industries in the world in terms of employment and income generation). Many experts have stressed the importance of the involvement of children in leisure and recreation activities in terms of growth and development in cognitive, physical, social, and language areas, as well as for psychological well being and achievement of long-term goals (Crowder, 1988; Demchak, 1994; Johnson, Bullock, Ashton-Shaeffer, 1997; Smith, 1995).

The question regarding child and adolescent preferences of leisure and recreation pursuits has been examined by several researchers. York, Vandercook, and Stave (1990) reported that, for middle school students, the favorite independent activities were watching television and reading, while the favorite activities with peers were shopping and going to the movies. The favorite family activity was eating out, while the favorite school activity was talking, and the favorite community activity was sports. The most frequently identified activities categories were physical activities (i.e., sports) and using audiovisual and electronic equipment (e.g., radios, stereos, and computers). Agnew and Petersen (1989) reported in their study of 600 high school students that the most popular leisure activities were noncompetitive sports, followed by passive entertainment and competitive sports. The least popular leisure activities were housework, organized activities, hanging out, music, and games.

Children's choices of leisure activities have been found to be influenced by a number of factors. Mauldin and Meeks (1990) and Meeks and Maudlin (1990) identified age and gender as two of the major factors affecting children's choices of leisure activities. Preschool children, for example, had more leisure time than older children, yet spent little of that time in the types of structured activities that were more typical of children in their teens. The degree to socializing as a leisure activity also increased with age. Gender differences were reflected in the greater amount of leisure time spent by males as compared to females, who tended to spend more time in household chores and personal care. Males in the study also spent significantly more time engaged in active and spectator sports, while females spent significantly more time socializing.

Gender also was a factor in an Australian study (Garton & Pratt, 1991) involving a large sample of high school students, with sports preferred by males, while females tended to choose activities such as reading, playing musical instruments, visiting museums, and social activities. …