Transition and Integration in Leisure for People with Disabilities

By Bedini, Leandra A. | Parks & Recreation, November 1993 | Go to article overview

Transition and Integration in Leisure for People with Disabilities


Bedini, Leandra A., Parks & Recreation


With new technological advances and disability legislation, people with disabilities are more interested in participating in community recreation programs than ever before. Many individuals, however, are unable to participate because of inadequate skills and lack of support. Community recreation staff can be instrumental in the successful transition and integration of people with disabilities from hospitals or school programs to their communities. For people with disabilities, graduating from special education classes or being discharged from the hospital begins a difficult process of adjustment. Community support is important for successful integration.

Definition of Transition and Integration

Many definitions exist for the concepts of transition and integration applied to people with disabilities. Originally, the terms were used in reference to people with mental retardation. In the early 1980s, transition was discussed for students with disabilities in schools but only in terms of vocational pursuits. Increasingly, within the last ten years, the concepts of transition and integration have grown to include a broad spectrum of experiences such as avocational or leisure opportunities and pursuits. Dattilo and St. Peter (1991) defined transition as "...the process of moving from being in school [or in a hospital] to actively living in the community." Decker (1987) noted that participating fully in community life is true integration. Additionally, transition and integration are appropriate for all people regardless of disability type; the terms include people who have been incarcerated, or are moving from any institutional setting into their community. Transitional facilities such as group homes, halfway houses and outpatient services exist to aid in this process.

Research on Integration, Transition and Leisure

Research about transition and integration related to leisure represents various perspectives. Some studies tested the effects of improving specific abilities and constructs such as social or leisure activity skills. Other researchers have evaluated the effects of fully implemented leisure education programs within communities or have examined specially established community recreation programs (e.g., Special Olympics, special recreation programs, or integrated camping experiences).

The recent literature identifies leisure as a component of successful transition and integration for people with disabilities. McGrew, Bruininks, Thurlow and Lewis (1992) identified that the factors necessary for community adjustment included social network/integration (i.e., number and variety of friends; social support and safety), recreation and leisure integration, community/economic integration, and need for support services. Overall, most of the studies dealing with leisure found similar components leading to successful community transition and integration. Functional independence, as an end goal of transition and integration, generally addressed the following: leisure activity skills; ability to make choices; social skills and ability to make friends; and support networks.

Leisure Skills--Learning specific leisure skills can be an important component for successful integration into community recreation programs. For many individuals with disabilities, increasing specific activity efficacy through training increased perceived physical competence (Hedrick, 1985). Other studies cited leisure skill training as contributing to leisure skill acquisition, social interactions and appropriate and cooperative play behavior (Schleien, Cameron, Rynders and Slick,1988). King and Mace (1990) found specific leisure skills training (e.g., aerobics) using prompts and contingent praise to have long-term positive effects on individuals with mental retardation.

Choice and Decisionmaking--

Several studies addressed the importance of choice in successful transition. Various techniques such as serf scheduling of leisure activities for individuals with moderate developmental disabilities resulted in the long- term maintenance of leisure skills (Bambara and Ager, 1992). …

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