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ECC at Perkins: Recreation and leisure keeps kids active and healthy

Recreation and leisure classes introduce students to healthy habits and hobbies they can enjoy for a lifetime.

Jake, 17, uses a weight machine in the Perkins gym during Physical Education class. Photo Credit: Anna Miller.

Recreation and leisure is one of nine life skills kids with visual impairments and multiple disabilities learn through the Expanded Core Curriculum at Perkins. While the terms recreation and leisure may call to mind a lazy afternoon, as a skill it’s all about ensuring students know how to keep themselves fit and make choices about how to spend their leisure time.

Here’s what it means to learn recreation and leisure as a skill, and why it’s a core component of our Expanded Core Curriculum.

Why is recreation and leisure so important?

For kids who are visually impaired or have other disabilities, sports can be intimidating. Unlike their sighted peers, they can’t just walk onto a field and play football, baseball or lacrosse. Even casual athletic activities, like biking or running, often requires adaptations or sighted guides. But physical fitness is as important for them as it is for everyone else. Learning how to be physically active also helps kids develop hobbies and activities he can enjoy for the rest of their lives.

“If you’re healthy, you’re more confident and you have more options,” says Megan, an adapted physical education teacher. “You have the tools you need to be independent and happy.”

How is recreation and leisure taught?

  • Adaptations: Many sports can be adapted to be made more accessible. For example, a ball could be fitted with an auditory output, so a student can rely on their hearing to find the ball. There are sports as well that aren’t adapted, but designed for kids with visual impairment, like goalball, a favorite here on campus.
  • Cardio and weightlifting: With the exception of braille labels on the treadmills, the equipment kids with disabilities use can be identical to that of a public gym. That said, sighted kids often benefit from watching a teacher or trainer perform exercise movements before they try, so they have a visual sense of proper form. When exercising with a visual impairment, it’s important for the trainer or teacher to walk the student through the movement to promote good form, which is critical for avoiding injury.
  • The social component: Part of the fun in sports and exercise is the camaraderie of doing it with a friend or teammate! When we think about fitness, we also think about social interaction, and how we can connect students’ idea of fitness and exercise to fun with friends.
  • Downtime: Everyone loves unstructured time, when they have the chance to just do whatever they want. We want to make sure our students know how to take care of themselves to avoid boredom during this time. So we help them explore new hobbies and passions, which can include things like fitness, so they can make the most of their downtime.

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What is the Expanded Core Curriculum?

The Expanded Core Curriculum is built of of nine life skills Perkins students with visual impairments, deafblindness and additional disabilities learn on top of their core academics. It covers everything from using technology to independent living to socializing with peers — knowledge most sighted children acquire by observing everyday life. The Expanded Core Curriculum gives students who are blind, deafblind and have additional disabilities a toolbox of crucial skills they need to succeed at school, in social situations, at home, on the job and everywhere else.

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Slater, who is deafblind, types an email to her Aunt Lori. Photo Credit: Anna Miller
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