Leisure & Recreation Strategies

The phrase 'quality of life' is often used to describe goals for students with disabilities after they exit a secondary/postsecondary program, but what does it really mean? In most instances, it refers to not only the physical aspect of life, but to the intangible aspect of having a good time, experiencing fun things, and maintaining a positive outlook on life. Planning for a 'good quality of life,' especially for students with more significant disabilities, needs to include the area of leisure and recreation.

Kleinert, Miracle, & Shepard-Jones (2007) gave the following ideas for including high school students in extracurricular school and community activities:

  • School clubs, such as computer club, foreign language clubs, drama club, Future Farmers of America, Key Club
  • School-sponsored sports teams and Special Olympics Unified Sports
  • Classes or lessons outside of school, including drama, dance, gymnastics, ice skating, sports lessons, pottery, music lessons, horseback riding, sewing and cooking
  • Spending time with other students, for example, just "hanging out" on the weekends or going to movies
  • Volunteer opportunities in the community, including opportunities through school service learning activities
  • Church-related activities and youth groups
  • Classes that include extracurricular activities as part of the regular curriculum, such as drama, dance, band, chorus, orchestra, agricultural, business and child care
  • School-sponsored social events including dances, sporting events and plays
  • A local fitness center or community health club.

There are several strategies that can be used to encourage student participation in school and community activities which include:

  • Teachers of students with disabilities sponsoring a club (Key Club, Interact, etc.) that is open to all students
  • Teachers of students with disabilities sponsoring a high school class (Freshmen, Sophomore, etc.) that has activities open to all students
  • Introducing and pairing students with mentors or peer buddies (Best Buddies)
  • Promoting the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classes that have a component of community involvement (drama, student government, etc.)
  • Effective communication with parents to encourage them to allow their child to participate in school-based and community-based extracurricular activities
  • Using person-centered planning techniques to determine specific likes and interests of students with disabilities

Public legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Rehabilitation Act of 1992 provide information to various stakeholders on how to support persons with disabilities. These laws reflect the principle that people with disabilities are entitled to the same opportunities as their peers without disabilities. These opportunities include the right to enjoy work, recreation and leisure and other "quality of life" experiences available in our society.


Kleinert, H., Miracle, S, & Sheppard-Jones, K (2007). Including students with moderate and severe disabilities in extracurricular and community recreation activities, steps to success. Teaching Exceptional Children, July/August 2007