Lauren Lieberman Listen to Lauren Lieberman’s advice on three things parents should know about recreation and leisure skills.


My name is Lauren Lieberman. I’m a professor of adapted physical education at SUNY-Brockport in Brockport, New York.

What are the three things you want to ensure that families know about recreation and leisure?

The three things that I really want parents to know about recreation and leisure is, first, that any recreational activity is possible with modifications. Parents, with other professionals, if needed, can modify the rules, the equipment, or the environment, depending on the needs of their kids. For example, a child might need to—for riding a bike, they might need to ride a tandem bike or a side-by-side bike. Maybe a recumbent bike or a tricycle, depending upon their needs.

They might need to swim with a life jacket on or with a “tapper”—for someone to tap them to tell them when the end of the pool is coming. They might need to swim along the lane lines, but they can swim.

Kids can play horseshoes with their family—maybe they need to stand a little closer, maybe they need a little help orienting to where the stake or as I like to say stakes—’cause I like to say you always put up to ten stakes, at least on the other end. You don’t always have to use one. And with modification, our kids ought to be able to do any recreational activity.

The second thing I want parents to know is that basic skills must be taught in schools and at home because sometimes skills that other kids can pick up visually or skills that other kids might learn playing on the playground or playing in the bus stop might need to be taught and further evaluated and elaborated on with the parents and at the schools.

But the other thing I want to make sure I clarify is that the expanded core curriculum and recreation is recreation. Physical education should be part of the core curriculum and that the law says that every child should receive physical education as much or more than their same age peers. And so that’s just a clarification that I wanted to make, that physical education is required by law, and that recreation is part of the basic skills that should be taught in schools and home.

Our children should be learning the same sports, recreation, and fitness as their same-age peers. And so it’s important to know that when a teacher is looking at what the children should learn, it should be the same thing as their peers are learning because when a child comes over and says, “Can you play this or this with me,” our kids should know how to do that and what modifications they need to make.

Also, recreation is one place where our children should learn the skills necessary to be active and social adults. And so if they don’t learn the basic recreation skills, they’re not going to be able to participate in normal activities when they grow older, so if somebody says, “Hey, we’re having a bowling night, and we’re going bowling.” If they don’t know how to bowl, it’s not an option, and then they won’t be self-determined.

Also, related to physical education—and when I talk about physical education, I’m saying it because without physical education a lot of the basic recreation skills might not be learned. Physical education should be on the child’s IEP with goals and objectives, and only then will the kids’ recreation skills develop because if they don’t have those basic physical education skills, the recreation won’t develop.

And also, sometimes people will say, “Well, the child needs to go to vocation—learn vocational skills, learn mobility, learn their academics.” In education, there are three domains of behavior: the affective, the cognitive, and the psychomotor. Without the psychomotor, their lives will be three-dimensional, they absolutely won’t learn everything they need to learn to be a whole person. Without the psychomotor, the affective and the cognitive will be the only part of their lives that they experience, and it’s not going to be a whole, full life.

The third part is to encourage children to participate in after-school activities, community activities, and family recreation. An example is some schools will have intramural sports; our kids should have the right to play any intramural sports that are offered—for example, if it’s ultimate frisbee, if it’s orienteering, if it’s backpacking, they should have that option.

Or if there are after-school sports such as swimming, wrestling, or track and field, these are great opportunities for sport and socialization that kids with visual impairments or kids who are deaf-blind should be able to access. Other examples are family bowling nights, family swimming, camping, just a few activities that families can do together, and when their kids know how to do these things, they can participate in them.