Promote Social Interaction and
The focus of this lesson is on learning strategies to help encourage and
promote social interactions and friendships.
The development of relationships is the core of inclusion. It involves
providing support to help people who haven been devalued to establish
relationships with valued members of their community. People need to grow
and learn with their peers in order to have access to valued social roles.
Leisure services professionals must be prepared to provide services to people
with disabilities in inclusive settings because of the growing preference of
people with disabilities and their families for inclusive leisure programs.
Another reason to be prepared is because of legislation which supports and
mandates services for people with disabilities in inclusive community
environments. Although there is research to show the benefits of inclusion,
implementation has been slow and has been met with resistance.
THE BENEFITS OF INCLUSION
The benefits of inclusive recreation are significant for people with disabilities
and without disabilities as well as for leisure services providers.
Benefits for Participants
- Cultivate friendships Real friendships can be developed with other
- Acquire social skills
Individuals with disabilities are more likely to
develop social skills necessary to develop relationships when participating in inclusive
- Improve Attitudes
– People often develop positive attitudes about diverse individuals as a
result of joint participation in some activities.
Develop life-long skills Through the presence of appropriate inclusive
recreation options, the development of life-long functional recreation skills will be
- Enhance Image The image of a person with disabilities is higher with
inclusive participation as opposed to segregated participation.
- Increase Understanding – Exposure to inclusive leisure
services results in a greater understanding and acceptance of individuals of
varying backgrounds and abilities.
- Improve Academic Performance -
Individuals involved in inclusive programs do better academically and
socially when compared to individuals in segregated settings.
- Develop Acceptance - People can learn new ways to solve
problems and adapt to difference, develop more positive attitudes toward
those who are different, and increase acceptance of people in general.
Leisure Services Providers
- Increase our acceptance - exposure and education increases
- Improve our financial situation - providing inclusive services is
substantially less expensive than contracting for segregated services.
STRATEGIES FOR FACILITATING SOCIAL INTERACTIONS AND FRIENDSHIPS
Prepare People to Promote Social Interactions and Friendships
- Be aware of isolation Individuals with disabilities are most often isolated
from their peers without disabilities if interactions are left to chance.
- Learn about the benefits of friendships Friendships serve many important
functions such as: learning social skills; encouraging childrens separation from
parents; developing a sense of autonomy; enhancing self-esteem; instilling a sense of
belonging to a community; achieving feelings of intimacy; being assured of being valued
and loved; and enriching their quality of life.
- Teach Leisure Services Providers - Possible training topics
include: benefits for people with and without disabilities;
about ADA and how it
supports inclusion, and values of social interactions, friendships, and inclusion.
- Assess participant interests – The use of surveys
as well as observation, are useful ways to discover people’s needs
- Include people in planning and decision making – It is important and valuable
to involve people with disabilities and their families on boards and advisory committees
when planning to promote social interaction and
Encourage Social Interactions and Friendships
- Design cooperatively structured activities Activities that require
cooperative efforts can facilitate inclusion where everyone contributes in some way.
- Increase Opportunities for Active
participation - Divide participants into small groups. Peer interaction typically occurs more
often in small groups of 2-3 people.
- Provide a small area for participation More peer interaction results in small
areas as opposed to large play areas.
- Choose interactive materials and equipment Limited numbers
and varieties of materials seem to encourage sharing and positive peer
interaction. Certain types of toys such as
cars, games, gross motor equipment, and socio-dramatic materials promote peer interaction.
Other toys such as small manipulatives, clay, books, and puzzles may inhibit social
- Teach Social Skills - Systematic efforts to allow children to
interact frequently with a small group of peers is likely to lead to
increased interaction between children with and without disabilities.
- Foster friendships
Friendships developed and fostered
through leisure participation help people cope with stress and maintain and
experience leisure with friends is at the center of feeling included in
one's community. The social benefits that are realized when inclusive
leisure services are provided are many. Providing those services should be
the goal of all leisure services professionals.
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