Negotiating Indentities: a Camp Experience For Youth With Disabilities

Por: D. L. Goodwin e K. Staples.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Inclusion, as an ideology, has had immense implications for educational and service delivery practices for persons with
disabilities. Founded on the principle of normalization, inclusion advocates the use of culturally normative means to
provide life conditions which themselves are culturally normative [1]. Whereas, the benefits of normalization have been
felt worldwide, concerns over the power relationship between professionals (without disabilities) and service users
(with disabilities) have come to light [2]. By supporting ideologically, financially, and emotionally the inclusion of
persons with disabilities in programs originally designed for persons without disabilities, issues of isolation, loneliness,
and disempowerment surface [3]. The importance of disability-only (segregated) physical activity experiences as
therapeutic landscapes [4] for individual biography and identity development may have been overlooked [5]. The
purpose of this study was to (a) understand the meaning assigned to disability-only physical activity experiences, (b)
reveal the importance of these experiences in disability identity development, and (c) give voice to youth in service
delivery model development.

A hermeneutic phenomenological study was used as it provided a sophisticated perspective from which to understand
and describe the day-to-day camp experiences. A maximum variation purposeful sampling design was utilized to
capture central themes that cut across the different disabilities. The common patterns that emerged were central to the
experiences, irrespective of the disability classification. The experiences of 9 youth (cp, sensory impairments, autism),
mean age of 16 years, were captured using semi-structured interviews, participant photographs, and field notes. An
inductive line-by line thematic analysis was conducted. Multiple data sources reflected the complexity of the
experiences and enhanced the plausibility of the emergent themes. To increase the authenticity of the findings, parents
and leaders were also interviewed

Four themes emerged from the thematic analysis (see Table 1). The campers spoke with enthusiasm of learning how
others experienced their communities. Living in rural areas or being home schooled prevented some campers from
having contact with peers with disabilities. The extended time away from their families and home communities resulted
in expressions of increased self-reliance, self-assurance, and physical independence, due in part to seeing that which the
other campers were capable. The campers expressed how much they learned about Canada, other disabilities, and their
own potential. The camp experience was painful to some as it highlighted how limited their lives had previously been.
The campers recanted many firsts - first time on an airplane and away from family, first time sailing or attending a
dance, and first time being kissed.

Discussion / Conclusions
It was clear from the campers’ stories there was a sense of coming home [6]. They enjoyed being with others who
shared common life experiences. The campers recognized their strengths by spending time with other youth with
disabilities. The campers reflected their struggle to understand who they were while also affirming their independence
and self-reliance. The efficacy of disability-only programs should not be dismissed. For these campers, a disability-only
camp experience provided an opportunity to know their bodies better, be exposed to disability culture, and foster
disability identity development. The campers experienced empowerment through inclusion in their disability

[1]. Wolfensberger, W. (1972). Normalization, Toronto, ON: National Institute on Mental Retardation.
[2]. Chappell, A. L. (1992). Disability, Handicap and Society, 7(1), 35-51.
[3]. Taub, D. E., Greer, K. R. (2000). Journal of Sports and Social Issues, 24(4), 395-414.
[4]. Gesler, W. M. (1992). Social Science and Medicine, 34(7), 735-746.
[5]. Groff, D. G., & Kleiber, D. A. (2001). Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 35(4), 318-332.
[6]. Gill, C. (1997). Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 9, 39-46.

NOTA: O texto com a iconografia está no anexo.

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