Tell Me a Story About Your Child: A Narrative Exploration of Disability in Recreation
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The purpose of this narrative inquiry was to explore how parents understand and experience their child’s involvement and non-involvement in community leisure experiences. The study involved five parents with children between eight and twenty-one years of age, and asked them about the recreation experiences of their child who had a cognitive and/or physical disability. Narrative methodology enabled a holistic, comprehensive and personal approach to exploring their experiences. Each parent completed two narrative interviews, the first to produce a narrative account and the second to explore the meaning of his or her narrative. This study used a two step analysis process to explore the narratives. The descriptive analysis focused on establishing the context, and creating the narrative account using the interview transcripts and my interpretation of the stories. An interpretive analysis was completed in three phases to explore the purpose of the story, the order and sequence and presentation of self, and explored the cultural practices of the narratives. From the narratives I found many parents told their stories for other parents or recreation practitioners. The key message from the stories was the importance of recreation for social networking for both parent and child. Important spaces from the stories were identified: space to be social, space to succeed and space to be engaged or included. Other characters played critical roles in the recreation experiences. Internal conflict was often experienced by parents where the desire for the child to participate clashed with the parents’ hesitation, concern, or schedule. The final phase of analysis revealed a difference between my understandings of key terms (segregation, integration and inclusion) and the parents’ understandings of those terms. Many parents and children had experienced a level of exclusion both from and within recreation experiences. Inclusion was found to be an enabling and disabling practice. I found gains in political power developed through increases in social and psychological power. Levels of trust and the phases of empowerment were important to the parents’ understandings of inclusion. The conclusions identified the parents as being responsible for negotiating recreation, and the children had an awareness of their disability. Finally, discrepancies about the meaning of segregation, integration and inclusion were identified.