Leisure activities can be a challenge for families and individuals who live with special needs. Some individuals are able to participate in most activities while others either have to have activities adapted or participate in a limited way.
This summer we had the privilege of hosting my brother and his family. My niece is in a wheel chair, but she doesn’t let that stop her if she can help it. She enjoyed participating in a family water fight, although she was frustrated that she couldn’t actually control where and when the water was dumped. She also enjoyed a trip to our local blueberry patch, strapped into the seat of a motorized golf cart. While the rest of us picked, she held the bucket for us. When she had enough of that, she figured out how to push the gas pedal and laughed hysterically when she bumped into a tree. Her positive attitude inspires me.
Our twins are able to walk and even run – something a paediatrician thought would never be possible. However, due to cognitive limitations and poor motor control, they are not able to participate in team sports.
In The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius, Kristine Barnett describes it this way:
“Would my son never know what it felt like to shout ‘Goooaaaaal!’ or to douse the kid who’d pitched the winning game with Gatorade? Would he never know how it felt to slide into home plate, seconds ahead of the tag? Did his autism mean that Jake would never make a touchdown or get grass stains on his soccer uniform?”
She goes on to describe how she set up weekly events where special needs were not a barrier:
“We had the soccer coach from the high school come to teach the kids soccer…we got members of the U.S. Hockey League’s Indiana Ice to come and play on the carpet with the kids. When we finally moved out to the baseball diamond, I maxed out my credit card to buy different-colored T-shirts with the team names on them so that the kids would know how it felt to be on a team. For many of the lower-functioning kids, sitting in that dugout was the first time they’d been apart from a parent or caregiver. But they were fine, because they were with their teams, and of course, their parents were cheering them on like crazy from the bleachers. By that time, we all felt like one big, happy family.“
It continues to amaze me how much we all take for granted. Until I was ushered into the world of special needs by way of my children, I didn’t think twice about leisure activities. Now I not only plan our family schedule, but often I also help create opportunities so that my children are able to participate and enjoy the activities. We go swimming, skating, tobogganing, build snowmen, travel, read, take photographs, and garden. We laugh and play together. Our leisure may look different, and we may not participate in some activities, but life is still rich and full. The smiles on my children’s faces are proof.
What are leisure activities like for you and your family?
In 2014, Rose Fischer started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays (or Tuesdays!) will be answering one of her questions.