Existing Physical Activity and Recreation Opportunities
If your child has a disability and they are receiving school services as outlined in an Individualized Education Program Plan (IEP) that is mandated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), your child may be eligible to receive leisure and recreation program services. The IEP must include: "special education, related services, supplementary aids and services, program modifications and supports for school personnel to allow the child to advance toward attaining annual goals, be involved and progress in the general curriculum, and participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities and participate with other children." (http://www.dakotalink.tie.net/content/default.htm).
IDEA identifies recreation as one of the related services. Recreation as a related service is intended to help children and youth with disabilities learn how to use their free time constructively, appropriately, and in a personally meaningful way. Related services as defined under IDEA, "any developmental, corrective, and other supportive service as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education." According to the IDEA final regulation, Recreation as a related service includes:
- Assessment of Recreation and Leisure Functioning: This involves an assessment of current functional strengths and needs of students with disabilities in terms of skills, abilities, and attitudes relative to recreation and leisure.
- Leisure Education: This provides students with recreational and educational instruction to promote positive attitudes toward leisure, recognition of benefits of recreation involvement, the development of skills necessary for recreation participation (such as social, decision making, and planning skills), knowledge of recreation resources, and attitudes and skills that facilitate independent, satisfying leisure experiences.
- Therapeutic Recreation: This is a process, which uses recreation activities to habilitate or rehabilitate functional abilities, which contribute to behavioral change. It is also a process involving assessment, development of goals and objectives, and the implementation, documentation, and evaluation of intervention strategies.
- Recreation in Schools and Community Agencies: This involves the provision of recreation services that facilitate the full participation of children with disabilities in school and community programs. Activities are used to promote health, growth, development, and independence through self-rewarding leisure pursuits.
In addition to IDEA, there are several federal laws, which support leisure education services and recreational opportunities for your child within the community. The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA is foremost among them. The ADA is a broadly encompassing civil rights law, which mandates that public and private providers of recreation and leisure services open their doors and programs to include people with disabilities. The ADA mandates that people with disabilities, both young and old, be provided with equal opportunities to receive the benefits of programs and services, including recreation and physical activity programs.
Beyond the school day opportunities, there are a limited number of programs across the country available through rehabilitation centers or disability-specific sport-related programs.Unfortunately, the programs themselves are often under-funded and unable to do the type of publicity necessary to get the word out to the young people they are tying to serve. In light of this, it is important that parents take an active role in searching for opportunities for recreational and physical activities for their children.