Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Treasure in Leisure Activities: Fostering Resilience in Young People Who Are Blind

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Treasure in Leisure Activities: Fostering Resilience in Young People Who Are Blind

Article excerpt

Abstract: Because leisure activities are often viewed as optional, their value to people with disabilities may not be recognized. This study explored the benefits of leisure activities for eight young people who are blind. These activities provided them with supportive relationships, a desirable identity, experiences of power and control, and experiences of social justice. They enabled the young people we studied to thrive despite adversity.

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The most recognized contribution of leisure activities to young people is in the areas of identity exploration, affirmation, and transformation. Leisure activities, set within personal interests, provide a context in which an individual may exert control over the environment, act autonomously, and develop social skills and other competencies. They legitimate risk taking and role playing (Coatsworth et al., 2005; Eccles, Barber, Stone, & Hunt, 2003). For young people with disabilities, participation in leisure activities has been found to be a means of reducing social isolation, promoting a positive self-image, and developing skills and a sense of accomplishment (Cavet, 1998). In a qualitative study of adolescents with visual impairments (that is, those who are blind or have low vision) and their best friends, Rosenblum (2000) found that a common leisure interest was the catalyst for transforming schoolmates into friends and eventually into best friends.

Although leisure activities can be associated with building friendships and competencies, the activities of young people who are visually impaired often differ significantly from the activities of those who are sighted. Young people who are visually impaired have fewer social interactions with friends and are more likely to spend their free time alone. They are involved in less varied and more passive activities, have less independence, and are usually accompanied by their parents. Their out-of-home activities are more likely to be structured than spontaneous (Kroksmark & Nordell, 2001; Wolffe & Sacks, 1997). The leisure activities of young people who are visually impaired can be affected by the lack of access to transportation, venues, equipment, and information, and by the lack of qualified instructors and people who have positive expectations of them. The lack of knowledge of people with visual impairments about new activities results in fear, low self-confidence, and an unwillingness to attempt such activities (Ponchilla, Armbruster, & Wiebold, 2005).

Resilience

Resilience refers to the ability to thrive amid adversity (Ungar, 2004). Its two essential components are exposure to significant adversity (risk) and the judgment of competence (the achievement of positive adaptation) (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000). The challenges provided by living with a disability are regarded as a judgment of risk (Moghadam, 2006). Blindness, as Meyer (1981) suggested, is a steady fight against difficulties. The judgment of competence must be derived within the context of an external source, such as meeting culturally appropriate milestones.

Leisure activities and resilience

Leisure activities have been associated with resilience in youths who have been exposed to significant adversity. In their longitudinal study of resilience in Hawaiian children, Werner and Smith (2001) found that resilient youngsters had a hobby or talent that was valued by their elders or peers and that gave them a sense of pride and provided solace in such adversity. These activities enabled them to develop skills and introduced them to like-minded people whom they could turn to for emotional support. Similarly, Gilligan (2000) found that extracurricular activities contributed to the resilience of young people in public care by providing stability, enhanced skills and self-perception, and opportunities to connect with people who were out of the care system. The premise that leisure activities could build resilience in youths who are at risk or are exposed to significant adversity was at the heart of benefits-based leisure programming in the United States in the 1990s (Forest, 1999). …

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