Leisure Services Trends for People with Mental Retardation

Article excerpt

"You get out, you get a chance to experience things with your family - church socials and choir. You get a chance to go in there and learn things, and it can be adventurous, and it can also be fun at the same time if you are off-key."

Currently mental retardation is not considered to be an absolute trait expressed solely by the person, but it is an expression of the interaction between the person with limited intellectual and adaptive skills and that individual's environment. The way in which mental retardation is conceptualized specifies that services be provided in integrated environments. Necessary supports for each person are supplied based on the capabilities of that person and are designed to empower the individual to function in society. The current definition of mental retardation delineates that services should reflect person-centered planning and functional supports within the community focusing on the: * capabilities of the person, * environment in which the

person lives, and * presence or absence of supports.

According to the American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR) (1992), "mental retardation" is characterized by significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning resulting in or associated with concurrent impairments in at least two adaptive skill areas and manifested before the age of 18 (during the development period).

Lower intellectual functioning is usually indicated by a low score on a standardized test measuring a person's intelligence quotient (IQ). Although some instruments have been developed that attempt to compensate for particular disabilities, a person's lack of performance on standardized measures of IQ can be the result of many factors other than actual intelligence. For instance, some people may not have been exposed to the items presented on the test due to cultural and environmental differences. Other people may have difficulty communicating their responses due to physical or neurological impairments. At the same time, the attitudes of the examiner and the person being tested can influence test scores.

"Adaptive skills" are a collection of competencies which allow for the identification of individuals' strengths, as well as limitations. The specific adaptive skill areas identified by the AAMR (1992) include: * communication * self-care * home-living * social * community use * self-direction * health and safety * functional academic * leisure * work

The adaptive skill area of leisure has been described by the AAMR (1992) as: the development of a variety of leisure and recreational interests (i.e., self-entertainment and interactional) that reflect personal preferences and choices and, if the activity will be conducted in public, age and cultural norms. Skills include choosing and self-initiating interests, using and enjoying home and community leisure and recreational activities alone and with others, playing socially with others, taking turns, terminating or refusing leisure or recreational activities, extending one's duration of participation, and expanding one's repertoire of interests, awareness, and skills. Related skills include behaving appropriately in the leisure and recreation setting, communicating choices and needs, participating in social interaction, applying functional academics, and exhibiting mobility skills. (p.41)

Service Trends Based on

a New Classification

In addition to the revised definition of mental retardation, the new classification system established by the AAMR (1992) has influenced service trends. The current classification system is based on the premise that mental retardation refers to a person's level of functioning, which requires above average supports. Therefore, the person with mental retardation is classified by the extent of the support required for that person to learn and not by limitations as to what the person can learn. The intensity levels of support have been defined and described by the AAMR (1992) and have resulted in the following classifications: * intermittent supports (provided as needed) * limited supports (limited in time, but consistent across time rather than being intermittent) * extensive supports limited in time, provided on a regular basis in some environments such as the home) * pervasive supports (constant, intense, with the potential to sustain life)

The classification system represents a shift toward understanding mental retardation as a multi-dimensional concept requiring comprehensive assessment, rather than relying on intelligence tests as its primary indicator. …