Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Leisure Lifestyle Center: "Its Been Awesome for Me"

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Leisure Lifestyle Center: "Its Been Awesome for Me"

Article excerpt


The mission of the LLC is to improve the independence, socialization and community integration of individuals with disabilities.

Mark, a 29-year-old male who experienced a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident, has been involved with the Leisure Lifestyle Center for several months. When he first entered the program, Mark had shared no social contact with members outside of his family since the accident 10 years ago. He was displaying inappropriate social behaviors, poor short-term memory skills and added little to family conversations.

Since beginning involvement with the Leisure Lifestyle Center, Mark's short-term memory has improved, he has displayed appropriate social skills when meeting people and talks up a storm. Mark's mother says, "The program has stimulated him in a way I haven't seen since before the accident. It helps him get involved with the family and feel more important. I can see more and more of his personality coming out."Mark has this to say about the program, "It's been awesome for me!'

It was the belief of therapeutic recreation faculty at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse that developing a quality leisure lifestyle program for people with disabilities could be fulfilled through the unique calling of therapeutic recreation. A grant was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education to design, implement and evaluate a model leisure lifestyle center at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UWL). Funds were received in 1997, and the UWL Leisure Lifestyle Center (LLC) was born. The LLC continues to provide leisure services to individuals with disabilities in the city of La Crosse and the surrounding rural areas in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

The mission of the LLC is to improve the independence, socialization and community integration of individuals with disabilities. In order to fulfill this mission, the LLC focuses on four program components: (1) provide comprehensive individualized leisure assessments to individuals with disabilities; (2) provide individuals with disabilities individualized leisure education/guidance services; 3) provide group leisure education and recreation programs designed to increase social skills and socialization opportunities with peers without disabilities; and (4) provide professional development and information dissemination opportunities related to the LLC.

Many participants in the LLC programs have severe or moderate disabilities. Their diagnoses include mental retardation, mental illness, chemical dependency, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain, visual impairment, hearing impairment, stroke and learning disability. Participants without disabilities are seeking guidance for other leisure related problems, such as time management, stress management and inadequate social supports. The majority of participants are females over 18 with very limited incomes. Referrals are made to the LLC by a variety of agencies including hospitals, area group homes, assisted living complexes, La Crosse Special Olympics and the local park and recreation department. Psychotherapists, vocational rehabilitation counselors, social workers and therapeutic and community recreation specialists are active referral sources as well.

The success of the LLC depends on the expertise of its staff. During the three-year grant period, all LLC programs were conducted by a coordinator and a cadre of leisure educators, leisure coaches and leisure peer partners. Therapeutic recreation graduate students and advanced undergraduate therapeutic recreation students were trained as leisure educators, serving as "case managers." Their role is focused on conducting individualized leisure assessments; formulating a Individualized Leisure Plan (ILP) with the participant, consulting with participants regarding strategies to achieve their leisure goals and providing one-on-one leisure education and counseling. …

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