Planning For Independence

 Leisure Education


The purpose of leisure education is to prepare students for their leisure time by systematically teaching them how to use this time constructively. The emphasis is on having students integrate leisure interests into their lifestyles.

Leisure education provides opportunities for students with developmental disabilities to develop a repertoire of interests and hobbies that can be enjoyed in free time. Frequently, these students have an abundance of free time that can be meaningfully filled with enjoyable leisure activities.

Leisure education should be thought of as an integral part of all aspects of students' curriculum. For example, through the physical education program, students are exposed to a range of individual and team activities that they can participate in for the rest of their lives. Similarly, the arts programs provide students with opportunities to develop lifelong leisure interests, such as playing music, producing crafts, reading literature, attending concerts, and taking photographs. The goal is to have students generalize the skills, interests, and attitudes that they learn in school to other environments during their out-of school hours.

The Planning Cycle

Assessment and Development

In the first two phases of the planning cycle, educators need to:

  • identify students' likes and dislikes in order to determine what leisure activities they might enjoy;
  • ensure that leisure activities and materials will be ageappropriate and will be taught in the environments in which they usually occur;
  • consider a balance between active and passive activities when designing leisure programs;
  • arrange leisure activities in which students will have to interact with their peers and with students of other ages;
  • vary leisure options to include individual, small-group, and largegroup activities;
  • consider accessibility, cost, transportation requirements, staffing needs, and safety when determining the appropriateness of leisure activities;
  • plan to use leisure materials that are easily manipulated.

Implementation and Evaluation

In the last two phases of the planning cycle, educators need to:

  • enlist parents' co-operation in implementing the leisure program at home;
  • maintain regular communication with community agencies providing leisure experiences for students;
  • consider feedback from students when evaluating the appropriateness of leisure experiences.


Ballantyne, Bob. Leisure Lifestyles: A Resourcefor Community Agencies and Organizations to Encourage "Education for Leisure". Kitchener, Ont.: Kitchener Parks and Recreation Department, 1987.

Bender, M.; Brannan, S.; and Verhoven, P. Leisure Education for the Handicapped: Curriculum Goals, Activities, and Resources. San Diego, Calif.: College Hill, 1984.

Biel Wuerch, B., and Voeltz, L. Longitudinal Leisure Skills for Severely Handicapped Learners. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 1982.

Cherry, Catherine, and Woodburn, Bob. Leisure: A Resource for Educators, Toronto: Ministry of Culture and Recreation, n.d.

Falvey, Mary. Community-based Curriculum: Instructional Strategies for Students With Severe Handicaps. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 1986. See pp. 101-17.

Case Study - Elementary Level

Student Profile Sean is a co-operative eight-year-old who is motivated to learn and who enjoys interacting with his peers. He communicates using two- and three-word phrases and takes pride in his ability to complete tasks independently. Sean is developing the motor skills needed for cutting and printing and is learning classification skills of sorting and matching.

Learning Environment Sean has been placed in a Grade 2 class and is integrated into a special education resource program for speech assistance and language arts instruction.

Expected Learning Outcomes Sean is expected to:

  • participate and co-operate with his peers in leisure activities;
  • begin to use his leisure time constructively at home and at school;
  • develop the interactive communication skills required to participate in group leisure activities;
  • build self-confidence through the development of hobby and recreation skills.

Student Program Sean is being provided with opportunities to:

  • learn the classification skills of sorting, matching, and categorizing so that he can develop a baseball-card collection;
  • learn card-playing skills that involve one-to-one correspondence and numeral recognition to 10;
  • cut and paste pictures from magazines and newspapers to create a leisure album that will increase his awareness of the available leisure options;
  • participate in a daily fitness break;
  • increase his awareness of leisure activities, including indoor and outdoor sports and games;
  • participate with family members in table games and outdoor sports.

Case Study - Secondary Level

Student Profile Twenty-year-old Kelly is learning to become more independent in her community. She communicates her needs with speech and interacts appropriately with peers and adults. Kelly learns new skills quickly in the environments in which she is expected to use them. She dislikes leisure activities that require finemotor skills. She prefers activities that allow her to socialize and actively participate.

Learning Environment Kelly has been placed in a special secondary school class and integrated into family studies and personal-life-management classes.

Expected Learning Outcomes Kelly is expected to: - - - -- -

  • become aware of the leisure options available to her as an adult;
  • examine her everyday use of leisure time;
  • take more responsibility for the leisure time that she has outside school;
  • travel more independently in the community;
  • become acquainted with community support agencies;
  • interact appropriately with peers and adults in her community.

Student Program Kelly is being provided with opportunities to:

  • maintain a diary of the leisure activities in which she has been involved;
  • read schedules, menus, and signs in her community so that she can use libraries, restaurants, and shopping malls as leisure options;
  • estimate time so that she can arrive at leisure destinations on time;
  • pay admission fees and restaurant bills as part of the training she requires to attend concerts and other leisure events;
  • improve her endurance through daily fitness routines so that she can take buses and walk distances to get to leisure destinations;
  • use a telephone directory to contact agencies that provide leisure opportunities and information;
  • learn to operate a video machine under a parent's supervision.

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