Article by Abby Twyman, M.Ed., BCBA
An article published in Topics in Language Disorders in 2008, Collaborating to Support Meaningful Participation in Recreational Activities of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Marie-Christing Potvin, MHS, OTR, Patricia A. Prelock, PhD., CCC-SLP, and Laurie Snider, PhD, OTR(C), outlines a collaborative model to support participation in recreational activities. The first thing that struck me from this article was the fact the recreation is a related service under IDEA which means that if students are unable to participate in recreational activities due to the impacts of their disability, special education law states that those services should be provided. This is very interesting because I’ve never witnessed this provision being provided to students with IEPs. Families need to know that this is a right to which their child may be entitled!
The authors of this article outline a process for the family-centered collaborative teaming. The first step involves recreation being identified as a priority programming area by the IEP team. This may be accomplished through a formal or informal assessment process. Once it is identified as a priority, information is gathered related to factors that may enhance or deter from participation in recreational activities, goals and objectives are developed, an instructional plan is developed, the plan is implemented, data is collected to monitor progress and the plan is revised as needed.
Although the authors are only providing this information as a guideline without testing the efficacy of this process, it follows best practice guidelines for effective collaboration. The problem I see is that recreation is many times NOT identified as a priority and therefore this type of programming and collaboration never occurs. Parents continue paying for outside services because their schools or communities aren’t making these services readily available per the requirements of the law. My question to parents and professionals in the autism community is this: what are we going to do to make sure these services are available? Obviously these types of programs take extensive planning and staff training, but students have the right to have these services available to them. Below you’ll find additional information about the law from IDEA and NICHCY.
From IDEA – What does special education law say about recreation?
§ 300.34 Related services.
(a) General. Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. Related services also include school health services and school nurse services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.
(c)(11) Recreation includes—
(i) Assessment of leisure function;
(ii) Therapeutic recreation services;
(iii) Recreation programs in schools
and community agencies; and
(iv) Leisure education.
From NICHCY - What does the law look like in practice?
Recreation services generally are intended to help children with disabilities learn how to use their leisure and recreation time constructively. Through these services, children can learn appropriate and functional recreation and leisure skills. Recreational activities may be provided during the school day or in after-school programs in a school or a community environment. Some school districts have made collaborative arrangements with the local parks and recreation programs or local youth development programs to provide recreational services.
As part of providing this related service, persons qualified to provide recreation carry out activities such as:
- assessing a child’s leisure interests and preferences, capacities, functions, skills, and needs;
- providing recreation therapeutic services and activities to develop a child’s functional skills;
- providing education in the skills, knowledge, and attitudes related to leisure involvement;
- helping a child participate in recreation with assistance and/or adapted recreation equipment;
- providing training to parents and educators about the role of recreation in enhancing educational outcomes;
- identifying recreation resources and facilities in the community; and
- providing recreation programs in schools and community agencies. (Mattson, 2001)