When people pass by a community park sprouting colorful, inviting play structures, they might recall the fun, carefree days of childhood and smile.
Park and playground designers go beyond just those memories.
Their thoughts also go to the accessibility of quality play spaces, the safety of the equipment or to the necessary investment to provide physical, social and emotional development to children and families in their community. And you can be sure they smile when they see that kids of all ages, abilities and backgrounds are enjoying time on the community’s playgrounds.
That’s the goal for all children: the chance to play freely. And a childhood that includes the full spectrum of developmental opportunities.
“Playgrounds can be an ideal natural play setting for children who are neurotypical,” said Virginia Spielmann, executive director at the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder. “But for kids with special needs, a traditional playground doesn’t offer the same opportunities to master physical challenges, gain social confidence or hone fine motor skills.”
According to breakthrough research by the University of California San Francisco, 5 to 16 percent of school-aged children experience sensory processing difficulties. Some have biological differences in brain structure and connectivity patterns that cause them to take in and respond to stimuli differently than most.
How does this affect a child’s experience on the playground? It differs with each child, of course, but the struggle to take in, integrate and process sensory stimulation—whether it’s the chaotic spin of a whirling merry-go-round or the noise and tussle of rambunctious climbers on monkey bars—can sometimes prove overwhelming.
“Children who struggle to process external stimuli can react in many different ways to visual input, sounds, smells, balance, movement and more,” explains Spielmann. “They may react strongly and with enthusiasm, or they may be overwhelmed and retreat. And often, they can’t match the motor skills of other children, which adds to feelings of being different and isolated—especially on a traditional playground.”
The right play equipment can make all the difference. And today’s thoughtfully designed playgrounds have evolved into places that foster all-sensory experiences for every child.
Inclusive playgrounds are among the few places where a child with special needs can feel like just another kid who wants to have fun. And with playground elements like the We-Go-Swing®, We-Go-Round®, OmniSpin® Spinner, Cozy Dome® and so much more, kids can choose their own level of activity, create their own play experience and finally find new ways to connect with others.
Learn more about Landscape Structures’ commitment to inclusive play at playlsi.com. Or contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant to host a Learning Academy session with one of our inclusive play experts for your team.
Published on October 18, 2022