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What is Leisure?
To understand the full power and potential of leisure, it is important to separate it from another closely related word, recreation. Simply stated, recreation can be understood as the activity or experience, while leisure is seen as the outcome of the experience (definition of terms, 1999). Leisure is used in professional and academic circles and is relevant when addressing the need to develop within youth with disabilities a complete and balanced lifestyle, It is also a term that, when used, denotes a specific area of educational concern for youth with disabilities, particularly when designing an educational program that will eventually enable these students to transition from school to work, post-secondary education, community, and leisure settings.
Leisure has several distinct, yet related meanings. True leisure is a process involving freedom, self-discovery, and growth.
Godbey, a leading scholar in the field of leisure education, defines leisure as (1985):
Living in relative freedom from the external compulsive forces of one’s culture and physical environment so as to be able to act from internally compelling love in ways which are personally pleasing, intuitively worthwhile, and provide a basis for faith. (p. 9)
While this definition of leisure may sound a little on the philosophical side, it hits on some major points that are crucial in understanding the necessity of leisure experiences, and how leisure serves as a catalyst for improving quality of life. Let’s take a closer look.
The first part of Godbey’s definition is living in relative freedom. Godbey goes on to explain that there are two types of freedom, "freedom to" and "freedom from." "Freedom from" refers to freedom from physical constraints such as obligations, work, or activities of daily living such as self-care and cultural constraints such as stigmas and stereotypes. "Freedom to" refers to an individual’s freedom to choose what he or she wants to do. Therefore, leisure participation is a two-fold experience requiring not only being free from constraints, but also for an individual to have the freedom of choice.
Self-discoveryAs established, leisure is one’s ability to choose to participate in worthwhile activities. You may wonder however, what makes a particular activity worthwhile. One is able to determine what is worthwhile through internally compelling love. Love is not limited to a feeling about other people. For example, you may think of a child’s love for a doll, the doll cannot leave the child’s sight, or perhaps you think of an athlete’s love for his game, he practices his sport daily. Internally compelling love simply means that when we love something, it becomes a priority in our lives without effort. It is something we make time for, and something we cannot imagine our lives without. Experiencing leisure is about discovering what one loves, and as we discover what we love we can choose to do things that are personally pleasing, intuitively worthwhile, and provide a basis for faith.
Discovering leisure is discovering the things we love most in life.
Leisure is never dehumanizing or harmful. Things that are intuitively worthwhile normally reside within the morals and values of society. It may take trial and error to discover what is and what is not worth doing, especially for individuals in their teenage years. This can be the most difficult aspect of leisure. While some individuals can identity what is worth doing, others cannot, and even the individuals that can identify what is worth doing, may choose not to do it. Therefore, leisure is a process that involves exploration and understanding of who we are as individuals.
Participation in leisure allows your child to develop skills not only for a particular activity, but that are useful in other aspects of life. Developing these skills may take multiple attempts. Once your child has developed these skills however, leisure provides a basis for faith in their abilities, the activity, and others. The confidence your child will gain through leisure experience can then carry over into other settings such as school or work, thus enabling your child to be successful in all areas of life.
You may be thinking that this idea of leisure sounds great, but are wondering how to cultivate it into your own personal life as well as how to facilitate it in your child’s life. First of all, remember that experiencing leisure is all about learning who we are as individuals, and that takes time, exploration, and discovery. It may take several attempts to determine which activities bring your child most enjoyment, and this is okay. It is also important to allow your child to have as much freedom as possible, even if that is selecting a particular toy to play with. The goal of leisure for children with disabilities is to teach them that a disability does not limit their ability to have enjoyable life experiences.
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This online resource has been created through a collaborative project of the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) with content and design development by the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) and the Indiana University School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. This project is funded through Grant/Cooperative Agreement Number U59/CCU522742-02 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.
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