Our Free Time

Professor Kelley Johnson and Ross O'Neill
Norah Fry Research Centre, Bristol University

How do people with learning difficulties see free time? What does it mean to them? What do they do in time that they call 'free time'? What is the role of services in the free time of people who use them?

The study described in this paper sought to answer some of these questions which originated with staff at one service in the Republic of Ireland. The research involved working with people with learning difficulties as researchers to develop ways of thinking about free time and talking about it with other people with learning disabilities.

Student researchers Keith Giles, Elizabeth Mannix and Georgina Farrell

The study involved five people with learning disabilities, two support workers from the service and an academic researcher.

This paper reports on how the team of researchers worked together to find out what free time meant to them, using discussion, drawings and photographs and then describes how the research was undertaken using four focus group discussions with service users.

It provides an analysis of the positive issues of inclusive research as well as some of the difficulties which the team encountered in working together.

The service anticipated that people involved in the research would indicate a range of different activities which could be provided in 'free time'. However the research found that the idea of 'free time' was difficult for some people to understand and that others did not feel that they had very much of what could be called free time. The study found that issues like access to money, support and advocacy were important in determining how people felt about their leisure time.

This paper describes an inclusive research project undertaken in the Republic of Ireland in 2007.

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