Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Parental Attitudes toward Inclusive Recreation and Leisure: A Qualitative Analysis

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Parental Attitudes toward Inclusive Recreation and Leisure: A Qualitative Analysis

Article excerpt

Recreation and leisure pursuits are recognized as major contributors to the quality of life of all people (Demchak, 1994; Heyne, 1995; McGrew & Bruininks, 1992; Schleien, 1995). Civil rights advocates have described community as a sense of belonging among human beings. They view recreation and leisure as an essential component of community (Heyne, Schleien & McAvoy, 1994). Bregha (1985) suggested that leisure is an inalienable human right that is the most precious expression of our freedom. Interviews conducted with individuals with disabilities revealed that in the area of recreation and leisure satisfaction, those who participated more regularly and had greater access to recreation and leisure activities were significantly more satisfied with their lives than their peers (Harper & Heal, 1993). However, individuals with disabilities are frequently forgotten when it comes to participation in recreation and leisure activities (Rider, Iannella & Duncan, 1993).

The National Recreation and Park Association has proclaimed that its services are for all people, including those with disabilities. However, individuals with disabilities participate in fewer integrated leisure activities than their non-disabled peers (Aveno, 1987; Hoover, Wheeler & Reetz, 1992). Furthermore, many individuals with disabilities have been prohibited from participating in inclusive recreation and leisure activities because of various architectural, attitudinal, and programmatic barriers (Schleien, 1993).

Current trends in special and physical education advocate inclusive leisure programs (Heyne, 1995; Modell & Cox, 1997; Rider & Modell, 1996; Sparrow, Shinkfield & Karnilowicz, 1993). The trend toward inclusive leisure services focuses attention on the participants' strengths versus weaknesses to empower individuals with disabilities to function within community leisure activities and to provide choices to participate in age-appropriate activities (Dattilo & Jekubovich Fenton, 1995). Schleien (1993) called for recreation and leisure service providers to integrate individuals with disabilities into barrier-free environments (architectural and attitudinal) with a zero-exclusion policy, where no one is rejected based on ability, facility access, or program access.

In order to facilitate participation in inclusive recreation and leisure activities for children with disabilities, it is important that parents, educators, and service providers embrace the inclusion philosophy and work collaboratively to promote active participation. Typically, parents have the most influence on whether or not their children will participate in inclusive recreation and leisure. Heyne and Schleien (1997) indicated that parents are usually the "strongest allies" to recreation professionals and play a key role in promoting inclusive recreation and leisure. Therefore, in order to gain some insight as to why parents would or would not influence their children to participate in inclusive recreation and leisure, it would be beneficial to examine parental attitudes about inclusion.

In a recent study, Modell (1997) investigated the inclusive recreation and leisure patterns of children with mental retardation. As part of that study, data were collected to examine parental attitudes toward inclusion in recreation and leisure. Parents responded to a variety of Likert-type survey questions about recreation and leisure. At the end of the survey, parents were asked to freely express their opinions about inclusion in recreation and leisure. These responses were analyzed through content analysis.

Content analysis involves the identification of special characteristics of messages through a systematic coding of the message content and the development of categories based on the codes that emerge (Berg, 1989). The results of the content analysis of parental responses revealed five categories of responses: learning about diversity; learning from each other; communication; developing socially; and barriers to participation. …

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