Saturday, April 7, 2018

Jooay: Connecting Children and Youth with Disabilities to Leisure

This past September, I attended a Brainstorming Event: "Working Together to Promote Participation", held in Montreal (see HERE). Our discussion focused on the best ways to promote leisure participation of children with disabilities and to engage families in the community.

The meeting was hosted by the Jooay Team, lead by Dr. Keiko Shikako-Thomas, Canada Research Chair and Assistant Professor at the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy of McGill.

"Participating in sports and other leisure activities is an important part of childhood development; however, accessing appropriate activities and information is a challenge for children with disabilities. We created "Jooay", a mobile and web-based app, to provide families with information about appropriate leisure activities available in communities across Canada."

The Jooay App was launched in Spring 2015 to overcome the lack of access to information about inclusive leisure activities, and to create an online community of support through a mobile-health solution. Jooay is an App where parents, youth and other users can exchange information, rate and comment on activities, creating a community and building networks around adapted and inclusive leisure opportunities.

Participation in sports and other leisure activities is critical to the physical and mental health of all children, and essential to their social development. However, it has been found that engagement in leisure activities is low for children with disabilities compared to peers of the same age, both in terms of frequency of participation and diversity of recreational activities in which they partake. Families, healthcare professionals and educators have indicated that the lack of information about existing resources is a significant barrier to children’s participation and that a peer mentorship program could help facilitate this process. To address this issue, the Jooay App was created by Dr. Keiko Shikako-Thomas and Dr. Annette Majnemer, faculty members at the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy at McGill University.

I believe that participating in recreation and leisure activities is important to all individuals, regardless of ability. It is not only important in maintaining fitness, but it is also a means through which people have fun, meet new friends, and develop skills and competencies. As a parent of two children with disabilities, I also know how challenging it can be to find activities that allow my children to get involved and have fun. My son, Brennen has been involved in a number of adapted recreational programs over the years, and while our goal, always, is to provide him with meaningful life experiences and encourage social interaction, having him involved in sport and other extracurricular activities has increased the quality of life for our whole family.

I am now the Jooay Ambassador for Newfoundland and Labrador, and will be working collaboratively with the Jooay Team to help identify adapted leisure activities, to provide information about Jooay and adapted activities to children and families in our region, and to actively help promote participation for children and youth with disabilities across Canada.

Please contact me if you would like more information on the Jooay App, or if you know of an inclusive or adapted activity that can be added to our database. I would love to hear from you!

This project is part of the Child-Bright Network: A Canada-wide, patient-centered research initiative, including 12 research projects to improve the life conditions of children and youth with brain-based disabilities and their families.

Jooay is part of the Childhood Disability LINK community.

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