Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Recreate with Recreation


Hi friends! I know it has been a long time since my last post but I have been crazy busy with summer programs. Whew, it has been a fun summer!! I wanted to share this post about getting out for some awesome recreation activities for students with vision impairments. It was another great year for Camp Abilities UT. This year I went with the theme of "passport to recreation" and each day we ventured to a new recreation activity. We spent time with the students discussing what recreation is, how they can do it and most importantly, WHY recreation is important for everyone! The picture below is  the front of the Camp Abilities UT shirt. 

It can be a challenge when you are first thinking about recreation activities that work well for students with very little to no vision. I have a few thoughts that I consider when I am planning recreation activities for my students--both my younger elementary students and my older middle to high school age students. First, I think of interest level. For example, are students interested in physical recreation activities, solitary recreation or low key (but interesting and fun) recreation? It is easy to just assume that recreation is going to be sports or physical activities. There are so many options (many that require minimal modifications or support) for youths with vision impairments! Gardening, cooking, theater, book groups, board games--and so many more are great options that are not physical.  The picture below is bowling with the black lights on. One of our students is getting a quick coach from one of our lead teachers as he throws the ball down the lane. 
Most of this post will discuss recreation activities that are community based. I am always looking for ways for students to be more active in their communities or future college campus. I think it is important for our kids to have connections that will help them be visible and active in their communities. 
Here are some fun recreation activities that our kids can do with friends and family with minimal modifications:
1. Bowling: bowling is great because you can have fun with any level of it. You can be on a league and be competitive or like many of us, just go and laugh at yourself for being a bad bowler! The main modification is that our kids just need to know where to line up to walk straight. We do bowling every year and all of the kids love it!! Our elementary age kids to high school have a great time bowling, listening to music and chatting with their friends. I usually spend half the time with the lights on but then we go for black light bowling. We have a wide range of visual needs and the black light doesn't really take away but usually adds to the fun for the students. 
The picture below is of four bowling balls in a square formation with a folded white cane on top of them. 

2. Ropes course: take a challenge on a high ropes course or a low ropes course! We took on an adventure course that was waaayyyy up high!! I usually like to do a quick preteach for my students that have no vision of just what the course layout is or footing sequences they will need to use (i.e. walking across a broken bridge).  The picture below is of the adventure ropes course with all the different routes you can travel on the course.

3. Stand up paddle boarding: SUP has become a huge hit in the Camp Abilities circuit and for many people in general! The only thing SUP requires is decent balance and a fun attitude. We go paddle boarding with KoliFit Fitness. They are a fantastic club that have taken us out on some fun adventures. The only equipment needed are the paddle boards, paddles and life jackets! Preteach moment: the kids get on the board on land (to check out the layout/size of the board) then onto shallow where they kneel initially to establish their balance. Fun for the whole family or out with friends! The picture below is two students on paddle boards. One student is kneeling with instructor behind them paddling and the other student is standing while paddling on their own. 

4. Wibit: You may be wondering what a wibit is...it's a giant water inflatable playground or obstacle island to play on. So many kids (and adults) have a blast playing on the wibit. Our local rec center has Wibit Wednesday where everyone can go play on the wibit at night. There are different wibits but the standard one is pictured below. It is long and stretches across the width or length of the pool. It's enormous and has a variety of different obstacles such as a slide and things to climb over or around. We do a quick preteach just to make sure students have an idea of where and how to travel the wibit. We sometimes put an adult staff member in the middle for verbal coaching. I let students go one by one or sometimes let them race depending on their comfort level. Our rec center Wibit Wednesday is every week throughout the year so even in the winter, we can still have pool fun!
5. Archery: Yes, archery! It may require a little bit more hands on learning but it is a very doable option for our kids. One quick modification is that we put a sound source to identify which location to aim. We have used a standard sound source from APH (available on quota funds) or wireless bluetooth speaker. Archery is a nice option because much like bowling, you can be on a team and compete or you can do it for fun and increase your skills. The picture below is of a young woman with a bow aiming at a target. 
6. Fencing: FENCING!! This was a new idea that was way fun! Special note: fencing does require a lot of technique to do competitive footwork and it does help to have a good fencing coach. However, for some fun recreation fencing was a great choice! Fencing is a sport that does not require vision. Whisper coaches can stand behind the athlete and provide coaching. We did a long preteach session to work on footwork (i.e. lunge, retreat, etc.). We did foil but we also considered epee. Low vision as well as our Braille reader students successfully participated fully. Lots of fun! The picture below is two students in fencing attire in a one on one competition. 

7. Horseback riding: This is a popular option and many of our students have done it before. It is a fun option for students of lots of ability levels. We were fortunate to have a young adult man who has no vision come and ride with us. There is more than just being on the horse for our students. We took time to brush the horses, feed them and just spent time with them. The picture below is a student riding a horse while an adult leads it. 
These 7 activities are fun recreation options that our kids can do with their families and friends. But don't think that there are just 7! There are so many options. Feel free to share more ideas with me. There are many advantages for recreation for everyone; not just people with vision impairments. It recreates us physically and emotionally. It is important for our kids and young adults as it is a designated area of the Expanded Core Curriculum!

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