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Our free time

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.

A man and a woman sitting at a table drinking a beverage in a cafe

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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About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
MK7 6AA

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