Impact Feature Issue on Social Inclusion Through Recreation for Persons with Disabilities

How to Set the Stage for Building Relationships (sidebar)

There are a number of things that recreation professionals, families, and individuals with disabilities can do to support the building of friendships and other social relationships through recreation. Below are some ideas:

  • Contact: People are more likely to develop social relationships if they have regular, frequent contact with others. Look for programs or activities that meet at least once a week over a long period of time. This will allow both the person with a disability and other participants sufficient time to get to know one another and build upon their common interests.
  • Common Interests and Fun: Friendships develop when people who have interests in common get together and have fun. It is therefore critical that individuals with disabilities choose their own recreation and leisure activities. It is also important that once they begin to take part in recreation activities, they are given the opportunity to share information about their interests with others. Hanging around after an activity to share a snack or arriving a few minutes early both provide such social opportunities.
  • Interaction as a Priority: Some activities are structured to support social interaction and inclusion. This is especially true of those that are cooperative and allow for ongoing conversation. Seek out such activities. Others are structured in a way that minimizes social connections; in such cases, brainstorm about how the activity could be modified to allow for greater social interaction.
  • Disability Awareness: Make sure that recreation participants with disabilities are aware of their strengths, skills, and needs in relation to participation in an activity. Ensure that program leaders are aware of and able to fulfill the support needs of participating individuals with disabilities, and that information about disabilities is available to other participants.