The meaning of leisure to children and young people with significant physical disabilities: Implications for optimising participation

Benita Powrie, Jodie Copley, Merrill Turpin, Jenny Ziviani, Niina Kolehmainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


The facilitation of meaningful leisure participation for children and young people requires an understanding of what leisure means to them. This study aimed to understand meaningful leisure from the perspective of children and young people with complex physical and communication disabilities.

A hermeneutic phenomenological research design was used. Data was gathered through multiple interviews with six young people supported by photo elicitation, Talking Mats and direct observation. Individual case studies were analysed, together with six autobiographies of people with similar disabilities. Data analysis was iterative and multi-directional, alternating between segments and the whole throughout interpretation.

Leisure experience meanings were uniquely constructed for each person, based on preferences, personality and circumstances. The tree of leisure emerged as a useful metaphor for three essential features (control, engrossing, enjoyment) and four key meanings (escape, exploration, exchange and expression) of leisure. Children and young people experienced five meaningful outcomes that lasted beyond the leisure activity (restoration, protection, construction, reflection and connection).

For children and young people with disabilities, a balanced array of diverse leisure experiences provides a powerful and accessible route to wellbeing. Implications for practice include understanding the individual, focusing on the social environment, supporting self-advocacy and promoting opportunities for free movement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-77
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number2
Early online date5 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


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