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NLTS2 Data Brief

Reports from the National Longitudinal Transition Study

March 2004 Vol. 3, Issue 1

National Longitudinal Transition Study logo SRI logo
NLTS2 is being conducted by SRI International


Social Activities of Youth with Disabilities

By Mary Wagner, Tom W. Cadwallader, Nicolle Garza, and Renée Cameto

When youth take part in informal activities with friends or participate in organized extracurricular activities, their choices about how they use their nonschool hours can result in opportunities to explore interests, learn skills, develop friendships, have fun, and participate actively as members of their schools and communities. Activities with peers can take on particular importance during adolescence, when teens become more independent from their families and use peers for some types of support that previously were provided by family members.

Although extracurricular activities and relationships may be crucial to the healthy development of all youth, some kinds of disabilities can present challenges to participation. The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2)(see footnote 1), sponsored by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U. S. Department of Education, provides a national perspective on the participation of youth with disabilities in activities involving individual friendships and organized groups. NLTS2 findings generalize to all students receiving special education who were between the ages of 13 and 16 in December 2000.

Friendships and Extracurricular Activities

Exhibit 1: Friendships and Extracurricular Activities of Youth with DisabilitiesTo understand the friendships of youth with disabilities, parents were asked how often youth interact with friends by getting together outside of school, receiving telephone calls from them, and being invited to other youths' social activities. They were also asked whether youth had taken part in various extracurricular activities during the previous year.

Many youth with disabilities often get together with friends in person and by telephone. Almost one-third see friends outside of class four or more times a week (Exhibit 1), and about twice as many receive telephone calls from friends several times a week. A large majority (85%) get invitations to friends’ social activities. However, a minority of youth are markedly less involved with friends. Almost one in 10 are reported never to see friends, one-fourth rarely or never receive telephone calls from them, and 15% had not received a social invitation from a friend during the past year.

In addition to informal interactions with friends outside of class, almost two-thirds of youth are involved in organized group activities, with involvement in school- and community-sponsored activities being about equal. The rate of participation of youth with disabilities in organized group activities (65%) exceeds that of youth in the general population (61%), according to data calculated from the National Survey of American Families (NSAF, 1999). Rates of group participation by youth with disabilities have not changed markedly since 1987 (see footnote 2).

About half of those who belong to groups belong to sports teams, and a similar proportion is reported to belong to religious groups. Performing groups, such as a band or dramatic group, and special interest groups, such as a hobby club or school club, are outlets for 18% and 11% of group members, respectively. Few are reported to belong to a disability-oriented group (5%) or a youth development group, such as a Boys or Girls Club (3%).

Community service or volunteer activities were reported for 41% of secondary-school-age youth with disabilities. Youth with disabilities are substantially less likely to take part in these activities than youth in the general population (73%) (NSAF, 1999).

Disability Differences in Friendships and Extracurricular Activities

Youth with various disabilities have very different levels of involvement with friends and extracurricular groups (Exhibit 2). For example, the percentage of youth who see friends frequently ranges from 6% to 34%. Receiving telephone calls frequently varies from 10% to 71% of youth with different kinds of disabilities. Group membership is more consistent across disability categories, ranging from 56% to 75% of youth.

Youth with learning disabilities or speech impairments are among the most active. Youth with emotional disturbances have active individual friendships but are less likely than others to belong to organized groups. In contrast, youth with hearing impairments are active group members and among the most likely to do volunteer activities or community service, but they tend to see friends or receive telephone calls from them less frequently than many other groups.

Youth with autism, multiple disabilities, or deaf-blindness are among the least likely to be actively involved with individual friends. From 27% to 40% of youth in these categories are reported never to see friends outside of class, and about half or more are not invited to social activities. Yet, more than half take part in organized group activities, and about one-third or more do community service.

Exhibit 2: Friendships and Extracurricular Activities, by Disability Category

Percentage of youth who: Learning
Disability
Speech/
Language
Impair-ment
Mental
Retardation
Emotional
Disturbance
Hearing
Impair-ment
Visual
Impair-ment
Orthopedic
Impairment
Other
Health
Impair-ment
Autism Traumatic
Brain
Injury
Multiple
Disabilities
Deaf-
Blindness
See friends outside of school:*
Frequently 33 27 22 34 22 18 14 28 6 24 14 12
Never 7 9 16 11 8 15 20 6 44 8 30 27
Receive telephone calls from friends:**
Frequently 71 66 47 64 49 57 43 66 10 51 27 29
Rarely/never 19 22 42 26 41 33 47 23 84 34 63 64
Were invited to other youths' social activities during the past year:
  89 89 75 83 88 78 70 88 49 80 56 65
Participated in organized group activities during the past year:
At all 68 72 56 57 75 64 63 71 56 62 58 60
At school 49 60 33 35 60 51 41 52 30 42 37 45
In the community 51 55 41 42 55 44 48 55 44 50 44 45
Participated in community service or other volunteer activities during the past year:
  43 46 33 37 44 43 40 47 35 41 32 34

* The category "occasionally" (fewer than four times a week) is omitted from the table.
** The category "occasionally" (one or more times a month but not every week) is omitted from the table.

Source: NLTS2 Wave 1 parent interviews

Demographic Differences in Friendships and Extracurricular Activities

There are no age-related differences in friendships and extracurricular activities among youth with disabilities in the NLTS2 age range. Differences between boys and girls are apparent in that boys are more likely to see friends frequently (34% vs. 23%), but also are more likely to have infrequent telephone calls from friends (27% vs. 21%). Boys and girls are about equally likely to take part in extracurricular activities, but among those who belong to organized groups, boys favor sports teams (57% vs. 36% of girls), whereas girls are more likely to belong to religious groups (57% vs. 45%) or performing groups (27% vs. 13%).

Friendship interactions and extracurricular activities vary for youth from households with different income levels and racial/ethnic backgrounds (Exhibit 3). Most friendship interactions and extracurricular activities are more common among youth with disabilities from higher-income families.

Hispanic youth generally are the least likely to have active friendships and to participate in organized group activities. They and African American youth are also less likely than white youth with disabilities to take part in volunteer or community service activities.

Upcoming analyses from NLTS2 will explore changes in patterns of friendships and extracurricular activities as youth age and the effects friendship patterns and extracurricular activities have on academic and other social outcomes for youth with disabilities.

Exhibit 3: Friendships and Extracurricular Activities, by Household Income and Race/Ethnicity

  Household Income Race/Ethnicity
Percentage of youth who: $25,000 or less $25,001 to $50,000 More than $50,000 White African American Hispanic
See friends:*
Never 14 8 5 7 8 22
Frequently 26 35 32 34 30 21
Receive telephone calls from friends:**
Rarely/never 28 23 24 23 24 32
Frequently 61 67 67 67 66 56
Were invited to other youths' social activities during the past year:
  80 88 89 87 83 80
Participated in organized group activities during the past year:
  57 66 73 69 65 50
Participated in community service or volunteer activities during the past year:
  32 40 52 47 30 28

* The category "occasionally" (fewer than four times a week) is omitted from the table.
** The category "occasionally" (one or more times a month but not every week) is omitted from the table.

Source: NLTS2 Wave 1 parent interviews

For More Information

For more information on the subject of this NLTS2 Data Brief, see Wagner, M., Cadwallader, T. W., & Marder, C. (with Cameto, R., Cardoso, D., Garza, N., Levine, P., & Newman, L.). (2003). Life outside the classroom for youth with disabilities. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International, available on the Web site: www.nlts2.org.

NLTS2 Welcomes Feedback!

Contact us—

NLTS2, 333 Ravenswood Avenue., BS-136
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Phone: 866.269.7274; E-mail: nlts2@sri.com
Web: www.nlts2.org

The authors are part of the NLTS2 research team at the Center for Education and Human Services, SRI International.

Footnotes

  1. NLTS2 has a nationally representative sample of more than 11,000 youth who on December 1, 2000 were ages 13 through 16, receiving special education, and in at least 7th grade. Information from NLTS2 is weighted to represent youth with disabilities nationally as a group, as well as youth in each federal special education disability category. The information reported here was gathered from parents/guardians of NLTS2 youth in telephone interviews or through mail questionnaires in 2001.
  2. Wagner, M., Cameto, R., & Newman, L. (2003). Youth with disabilities: A changing population. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Available at http://www.nlts2.org/reports/changepop_report.html.

The NLTS2 Data Brief is produced by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET), in partnership with the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2).


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There are no copyright restrictions on this document. However, please cite and credit the source when copying all or part of this material.

This report was supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, (Cooperative Agreement No. H326J000005). The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, and no official endorsement by the Department should be inferred.

This publication is available in an alternate format upon request. To request an alternate format or additional copies, contact NCSET at 612.624.2097.

 

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