Academic journal article British Journal of Occupational Therapy

Childhood Participation in After-School Activities: What Is to Be Expected?

Academic journal article British Journal of Occupational Therapy

Childhood Participation in After-School Activities: What Is to Be Expected?

Article excerpt

Introduction

Participation is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) (2001) as one of the central domains in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Similarly, one of occupational therapy's targeted outcomes, identified by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA 2008), is to enhance engagement in occupation in order to enable clients' participation in desired roles and life situations at home and in the community. Participation, which is believed to be linked to health and wellbeing, is considered vital for children with and without disabilities (Larson and Verma 1999, King et al 2003). Participation leads to competence and is essential for psychological, emotional and skill development (Larson and Verma 1999, Larson 2000, Forsyth and Jarvis 2002). In particular, participation in non-school activities, such as play and interaction with family members and friends, is recognised as the most important context of learning and thriving (Larson and Verma 1999).

If the aim as therapists in general and occupational therapists in particular is to enhance clients' participation, and hence their health and wellbeing, the exploration might begin by understanding the nature of participation among typically developed children. This information is particularly important in the case of children because their participation pattern naturally changes while moving through developmental stages or transitions (Edward and Christiansen 2005). Through this, therapists would know what to expect, in terms of patterns of participation, in each developmental stage and between the genders. This study aims to contribute to this growing body of knowledge.

Participation

The WHO (2001), in the ICF, defines participation as involvement in life situations, which occurs across many locations, including environments of work, school, play, sport, entertainment, learning, civic life and religious practice. This definition is broad because it includes children's participation in school environments as well as in more voluntary, extracurricular activities, such as recreation and leisure. Psychologies specialising in childhood development recognise that non-school activities, such as play and interaction with family members and friends, may be among the most important contexts of learning and positive development (Larson and Verma 1999, Larson 2000). In fact, participating in discretionary activities that meet the child's preference and needs provides a context for developing skills and competencies, shaping self-identity, achieving mental and physical health (Desha and Ziviani 2007), expressing creativity and determining meaning and purpose in life (Larson 2000).

Thus, this study embraces the approach of King et al (2003) to children's participation, where the focus is on recreational and leisure formal and informal activities outside school. These include activities such as artistic, creative, cultural, active physical, sports, play, social, skill-based and work activities (King et al 2003). Formal activities are typically more structured, have rules and organisation, involve leaders and often require preplanning, such as music or art lessons, organised sports or youth groups. In contrast, informal activities, such as reading, talking on the phone or doing a puzzle, are typically more spontaneous, occur with less planning and have only a few rules (Sloper et al 1990).

Participation among children and adolescents

For children, participation in day-to-day formal and informal activities is vital. There is a wide recognition of the importance of involvement in activity and its positive influence on the development of skills and competencies, social relationships, and long-term mental and physical health (Larson and Verma 1999, Simeonsson et al 2001, Forsyth and Jarvis 2002). Although developmental theories do not address participation specifically, they do provide knowledge for understanding activities (Edward and Christiansen 2005). …

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