Supporting inclusive play

Last week, we were honored at the Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Foundation’s 1st Annual Banquet of Champions. Held at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center in Englewood, Colo., the event brought together people to help raise funds for research towards understanding behavioral and brain differences in children with SPD. Additionally, the Foundation celebrated individuals and organizations that have supported the SPD Foundation.

Proud to be recognized by the SPD Foundation for our commitment to inclusive play.

We were presented the Champion of Partnership award for partnering with the SPD Foundation to bring “The World’s Best Sensory Playground” to the STAR Center. The inclusive and sensory-stimulating playground equipment is used as a therapy tool for kids receiving treatment at the STAR Center.

Dr. Miller created an inclusive playground with many sensory-rich activities at the STAR Center.

We’re proud to work with the SPD Foundation and support their research in sensory processing disorders, and honored by this recognition. Learn more about the SPD Foundation and the STAR Center, and go here to read more about our commitment to inclusive play.

Guest Blog: Designing a truly inclusive playground

In June, we awarded the Iola Kiwanis club in Iola, Kan., $25,000 in playground equipment as part of the Make a Difference Through Play contest. Since winning, they’ve been busy with plans, and we’re happy to share another update from Michael Ford, member of Iola Kiwanis and community resource officer for the Iola Police Department.

When our playground consultant from ATHCO, LLC visited with us to discuss the inclusive playground design, five representatives from the M.O.M.S. group were at the meeting along with the school’s physical therapist and a couple of Kiwanis members. We all paged through the Landscape Structures catalog—the moms focused on products that might specifically help their kids—and the rest of us picked out items that we thought we be fun for all kids.

The Marble Panel™, Xylofun Panel® and Bongo Panel all provide sensory-rich experiences for kids.

L to R: Marble Panel™, Xylofun Panel® and Bongo Panel

Some of the moms focused on including sensory panels because they figured that even though their children might not have a lot of muscle strength to climb or hang from overhead events, they can still participate and have fun. And I don’t know what kid isn’t going to enjoy beating on Bongo Drums or playing on a Xylophone, which is what some of the panels included. Another popular item was the Marble Panel™, which one mom whose child with vision problems picked out. The light shines through the marbles to engage kids’ sight, plus it offers a unique tactile experience.

As a parent of kids without special needs, I never thought about sensory items as part of the playground, but now I see that it’s very important. And it’s important for the development of all kids. That, to me, is how we’re providing a truly inclusive play space.

The Roller Table provides a unique sensory experience with its deep muscle pressure.

Roller Table™

While the moms focused on sensory-rich activities, the physical therapist thought more about what kids—with and without special needs—need for building strength. She chose climbers that would engage kids’ full bodies. And she thought the Roller Table™ would be great for kids that don’t have any lower body strength, as they can lie down and pull themselves through.

The design process has been very educational for us. The Cozy Dome®, which I just looked at as a fort or climber, can also be beneficial for children with autism to use as a “time-out” space if they get overstimulated. It was quite the learning experience to look at these playground products from a different point of view.

The Cozy Dome® offers kids a place to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy playground, take time by themselves or socialize together.

Cozy Dome®

After that first meeting, our playground consultant came back with a design that we all liked. The design is final; however, if we exceed our fundraising goal we’d love to add more inclusive playground pieces to the design.

Stay tuned for another update from Michael next month. He’ll talk more about the importance of inclusive play to the community of Iola.

Guest Blog: Gaining community support for your playground project

In June, we awarded the Iola Kiwanis club in Iola, Kan., $25,000 in playground equipment as part of the Make a Difference Through Play contest. Since winning, they’ve been busy with plans, and we’re happy to share another update from Michael Ford, member of Iola Kiwanis and community resource officer for the Iola Police Department.

We started gaining support for our inclusive playground project during the Make a Difference Through Play contest. The contest took place on Facebook so we were able to easily spread the word through the Iola Kiwanis club Facebook page, various community pages and each of our personal pages. With family and friends spread far and wide, we literally had support coming from around the world.

When we entered the contest many people said, “What are the odds that little Iola, Kan., can win this contest?” But the power of social media showed that anything is possible. With our online outreach and word-of-mouth spreading through the community, we secured enough votes to get our project to the top of the list. After winning the contest and sharing our plans for the inclusive playground—including plans to have the project completed by April 2014—we were concerned that we would be confronted by naysayers, but we’ve had nothing but support.

Inclusive playgrounds mean more than just accessible.

Top: OmniSpin® spinner; Middle Left: Oodle® Swing; Middle Right: Cozy Dome®; Bottom: Sensory Play Center®

To help increase community involvement, we included the M.O.M.S. group and physical therapist from school to help our Kiwanis club create a truly inclusive playground design. While I was thinking wheelchair accessibility, they helped educate our group on the need for sensory play panels, playground spinners and swings, as well as quiet areas where kids with autism or sensory processing disorders can take a “time out” if necessary.

While we move forward finalizing the design, we’re analyzing our site and creating an overall blueprint of the project. We’re also beginning to work more closely with the Iola Parks Department as they will be heavily involved with the installation and maintenance of the playground.

Stay tuned for another update from Michael next month. He’ll talk more in depth about designing an inclusive playground.

Welcoming all abilities, generations with a new take on the seesaw

Nearly 14 percent of children have one or more special needs ranging from autism to cerebral palsy. These kids often have troubles socializing and even playing, which is why it’s important to address various abilities on the playground. Additionally, we’re seeing an increased number of caregivers who are injured military service members and part of an aging population. Their needs are also important to consider so that entire families can come to the playground for fun and recreation.

The above reasons are why we’ve expanded our inclusive play product offerings. The new We-saw™ is a seesaw that was specifically designed to accommodate people of all abilities. It is a multi-person seesaw that is accessible, promotes social inclusion and offers a multi-generational solution. The We-saw provides a truly inclusive play experience by accommodates multiple users, and the We-saw’s walk-in seating allows for easy access and transfer for those with mobility issues. Everyone that climbs aboard the We-saw will experience a fun, user-controlled ride.

We-saw

We are committed to providing play experiences for children of all abilities. With our design philosophy, which addresses the environment, the play experience and variability, and other inclusive play product innovations like the OmniSpin® spinner and Oodle® Swing, we bring children with and without disabilities together to play, learn and grow on the playground.

Children are our inspiration

The City of Gig Harbor, Wash., is the region one winner of the Together We Play™ essay contest. Their essay explains their inspiration behind submitting an essay–providing a place where all of their children can play together. Read the excerpt below to truly understand what inspired these moms.

“Our children are our inspiration. We are a group of mothers who have bonded together over the past 10 years–working hard to make our community a better place for our special needs children and for those to come in the future. In this case, we are members of the ‘Committee for an Inclusive Playground in the City of Gig Harbor.’ Each of us has a unique story–traumatic and often sad–and our children have many different diagnoses including muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, autism, developmental delays, chromosome abnormalities and epilepsy. Yet, each family also has a typically developing child, and that has inspired us to create an inclusive playground.”

Children of all abilities should play together on the playground.